Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Update on Landis' case

Landis turns to U.S. courts to challenge CAS
Posted Nov. 23, 2008

American Floyd Landis has challenged the ruling of the international Court of Arbitration for Sport that stripped him of the 2006 Tour de France title in U.S. Federal court, charging that the system for resolving doping cases is inherently biased against the accused.

In a motion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Landis claimed that the three arbitrators in the case had undisclosed conflicts of interest that may have affected the outcome of his appeal of an earlier panel’s ruling. In June, the CAS panel upheld Landis’ two-year suspension, the negation of his Tour de France win and imposed a $100,000 penalty to offset the costs of prosecuting a case that the panel said was made unnecessarily complex by Landis’ “scattershot” defense.

Landis originally filed the case in September, seeking to vacate the CAS arbitration award. On Thursday, Landis’ attorneys filed a motion alleging that all three members of the appeals panel had conflicts of interest that would have precluded a fair hearing in the matter. Those conflicts, the motion asserts, went unreported by each of the three.

Since the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, there have been no successful challenges to CAS’s authority in the court systems of athletes’ respective countries.

In 2004 Spain's David Meca-Medina and Slovenia's Igor Majcen, two professional long-distance swimmers mounted a challenge to a CAS ruling. The European court, however dismissed the claim, but also ordered them to pay court costs for both sides, ruling that the challenge was "frivolous" in nature.

Here in the U.S., sprinter Justin Gatlin failed in his effort to overturn a CAS ruling in U.S. Federal Court. The court ruled it didn’t have jurisdiction in the matter and rejected Gatlin’s effort to overturn his CAS-imposed suspension.

One option Landis did not exercise was to file an appeal with the Switzerland’s Federal Tribunal, which may have some authority over the Swiss-based CAS.

In the motion filed on Thursday, Landis’ attorneys claimed that evidence of arbitrators’ conflicts of interest on recently came to light after CAS recently posted information about past cases on its Web site.

Landis’ federal court strategy may cause some concern at WADA’s world headquarters in Montreal, since arbitration of his case and its subsequent appeal consumed nearly the agency’s entire $1.8 million litigation budget in 2008.

"We will certainly watch the case with interest," said WADA director general David Howman. “We have no intention of being pushed into compromising our efforts to stop doping, not matter how much it costs.”