First Doping, Now Hacking: The Floyd Landis War

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Dianne Manson / NZPA / AP

U.S. cyclist Floyd Landis

Pierre Bordry's lab was broken into. To find out who did it, the head of France's antidoping agency filed a legal suit in November 2006. He claimed that someone hacked into the computers of his main laboratory, which was analyzing urine samples taken from American cyclist Floyd Landis that year. Those samples had already tested positive for testosterone doping; as a result, Landis was stripped of his Tour de France crown. But the hackers accessing the lab's computers falsified files linked to Landis' case. The altered data were then circulated as evidence that the lab's work was so sloppy it shouldn't be trusted as proof against Landis. To no avail: he was eventually banned from the sport for two years. Now, a local magistrate has issued a warrant for Landis' arrest — should he set foot in France — in connection with the hacking investigation.

The reason? A search in late 2006 by French investigators of the lab's compromised computers found a "Trojan horse" program that allowed the hackers to access and download files. Further investigations by French justice officials determined that the program probably got into the lab's system via an e-mail sent from an IP address allegedly traced to Landis' coach Arnie Baker — a physician who defended Landis by questioning the credibility of Bordry's lab. Judge Thomas Cassuto wants to question both Landis and Baker about the hacking. "These two men were convoked a first time by the judge, but did not deign to respond," Bordry told TIME, explaining why Cassuto decided to issue an arrest warrant for Landis. Bordry says a similar arrest warrant had already been issued for Baker in November 2009.

Landis, who has consistently and hotly denied the doping charges, believes that the hacking allegations are persecution by the French doping authorities in order to obfuscate their own shortcomings. "It appears to be another case of fabricated evidence by a French lab who [sic] is still upset a United States citizen believed he should have the right to face his accusers and defend himself," Landis told the Los Angeles Times via e-mail. In the same message, Landis suggested Cassuto's warrant was unfounded. "No attempt has been made to formally contact me."

Bordry insists that Cassuto called both men in for questioning but received no reply. He also says the thrust of Landis' complaint is off-target. "This is a legal investigation about the illegal intrusion [into] a state-sanctioned organization, led by a judge who doesn't care about sports, doping or cycling," Bordry tells TIME. "It doesn't matter if the guilty party is French, American or Chinese — someone committed this crime, and the judge is following evidence leading him to whom it was."

Bordry denies the existence of a vendetta. He says it was American cycling officials and international authorities who decided to ban Landis and uphold the stripping of his 2006 Tour title for cheating. "That decision was made without any ambiguity long ago," Bordry says. "This is a legal inquiry into the violation of French law."

Landis is likely to point to history to counter Bordry's evocation of judicial objectivity. In 2005, seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong attacked the credibility of Bordry's labs after an article in the French sports daily l'Equipe said preserved samples of his 1998 and 1999 races had tested positive for doping. "The paper even admits in its own article that the science in question here is faulty," Armstrong said via his website — one of the many swipes at the lab he's taken over the years. Bordry proposed a second testing, but Armstrong dismissed the idea, claiming the samples had already been improperly handled. Bordry would have none of it. "Scientifically, there is no problem analyzing these samples — everything is correct," Bordry argued in 2005. "If [a retest] had been clean, it would have been very good for him. But he doesn't want to do it, and that's his problem." Landis would be wise to steer clear of France for awhile. His battle with Bordry and the French is no longer about doping in sports but about violating French law.