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News feature, October 15, 2006

Landis defense: PR gambit or skillful legal tactic?

by Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

On the way to yellow in stage 11
Photo ©: AFP
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American Floyd Landis tested positive for testosterone after Stage 17 of this year's Tour de France. Committed to an open hearing process in light of events in the case so far, the Landis defense team recently released a Powerpoint presentation on his website detailing his defense.

The release of Floyd Landis' strategy by his defense team, led by attorney Howard Jacobs, is a clear indication of the public relations component to his overall defense. Whether or not this will affect the outcome of the arbitration between Landis and USADA will likely not ever be revealed. However, the defense strategy goes beyond the arbitration stage for Landis and into the court of public opinion, where he will have a lot of work to do to repair his ethos, if he is not found guilty.

"Floyd will have to restore his reputation at the end of the case," an optimistic Jacobs told Cyclingnews. "It's one thing to have the arbitrators clear him. I don't know if he can ever have it fully restored from the damage that they have done. But this type of approach for the public to see and decide for themselves goes a long way towards that."

The document claims
Photo ©: Floyd Landis
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The damage Jacobs refers to is the leak of information prior to Landis being charged with a doping offense, and the subsequent public relations missteps by Landis immediately following. "That first week Floyd was forced to defend himself in a highly scrutinized public environment without any information whatsoever against critical information that was leaked to the media," said Michael Henson, who took over public relations for Landis.

"We wouldn't have done any of this if the case had remained confidential like it should have been," said Jacobs. "Once the UCI and WADA publicized it when they shouldn't have, and weighed in with Dick Pound passing judgment and Pat McQuaid saying they should sue Floyd... at a certain point they have gotten their message out and we sat back patiently. So we felt this was an appropriate time."

Jacobs said there is no correlation between the denial of his motion to dismiss to the USADA review board and the release of the strategy to the public. "We made the decision to have our hearing as an open hearing, and a natural consequence of that is to just do the whole thing transparently. It makes sense, if we have an open hearing for the public to follow, we might as well give them some context."

Floyd Landis (Phonak)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

But some critics have remarked that this is an attempt to alter the USADA proceedings either with public opinion or a red herring argument.

UCI president Pat McQuaid responded to the posting in an email quoted by Landis' hometown newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News. "It is a public relations effort by Landis to get public opinion behind him,'' McQuaid said. "It is easy to make up a power point presentation and put what you want on it.'' The paper also quoted Arne Ljungquist, a World Anti-Doping Agency board member and former chairman of the International Olympic Committee medical commission. "It's unfortunate if athletes are blaming individual laboratories. The labs are extremely well controlled and under very close supervision–to attack the labs is not the best type of defense."

An analysis about the specifics of the defense will be forthcoming on Cyclingnews.

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case

May 29, 2009 - French authorities summon Landis and Baker
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the Floyd Landis case

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