Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Leogrande doping case proof of cultural shift

This image, showing Kayle Leogrande holding performance enhancing drugs, was presented as evidence of his doping.By Alan Abrahamson / Universal Sports

Dick Pound, the former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, has said many times that the real measure of progress in the campaign against performance-enhancing drugs will be revealed when we see a distinct change in the culture of sports.

That is, the notion of doping is seen not just by athletes but by coaches and support staff as so unacceptable that even those in that inner circle do the right thing.

They report outright misconduct. They report even suspicious conduct.

An arbitration ruling issued this week -- full of details of what it can be like behind the scenes in professional cycling -- offers reason to believe that perhaps, just perhaps, such a cultural shift need not be the stuff of fantasy.

Maybe it really can happen.

A three-member arbitration panel on Monday unanimously found American rider Kayle Leogrande liable of doping, ordering a two-year suspension.

The decision was little noticed outside of cycling circles. Make no mistake, however. The Leogrande case is a significant ruling indeed.

Those accused of doping typically adopt the same signature strategy: deny, deny, deny. It takes someone who knows the truth to speak the truth.

The case against Leogrande, now 31, was made through what in legal jargon is called a "non-analytical positive" result -- the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency building the case through witnesses, documents, photos and other evidence.

Leogrande did not fail a doping test.

An August 2006 test suggested doping but for technical reasons was not ruled a positive. That test, however, helped put Leogrande on authorities' radar.

Leogrande raced in Wisconsin in July 2007. A July 26, 2007, sample -- not positive. A July 28 sample -- not positive.

In cycling, a "soigneur" is an assistant who does all the sorts of stuff that, say, the manager on a college basketball team takes up, and more: food, laundry, massage, errands, whatever. For the Rock Racing team in Wisconsin in July 2007, the place to hang out when there was downtime was soigneur Suzanne Sonye's room at a Milwaukee EconoLodge hotel, where "there was food and always an open door."

In her hotel room during the week of July 15, according to arbitrators, Leogrande asked Sonye if she knew where to obtain testosterone patches. Testosterone is a banned substance.

He told her, according to the ruling, that he had used testosterone gel but wanted patches because he thought they would work better. I don't know, she said. Maybe in Mexico.

The day after he had been selected for the July 26 doping test, Leogrande told Sonye, according to arbitrators, he hadn't slept well. He was "nervous" because of the test.

She said, why?

He told her, according to the decision, he had taken "vicadin, ventalin and EPO" and "admitted to her that he had recently taken EPO." He made a motion with his hand "as if holding a syringe and pretended to stick a needle into his arm."

Sonye told Leogrande he would test positive. He said he had put soap on his wrist before entering doping control and while providing his sample had put some of the soap into his urine stream, thinking the soap would "f--- up the test."

The next day, "after agonizing about what to do," Sonye went to the team's chief mechanic, Jordan Schware, and told him Leogrande had "confessed doping to her." The mechanic suggested she call the team's sports director, Frankie Andreu. She did so, calling Andreu, who was in Europe, from Schware's cell phone; Andreu told her she had "done the right thing" and said he "would take care of it."

After coming back to the United States, Andreu and Leogrande talked, Leogrande saying he "had made a mistake, he regretted it, it was a stupid thing to do, he had let the team down." That led to multiple conversations with management. "No one within the Rock Racing management questioned whether [Leogrande] had used EPO. The only debate was what to do about it," according to arbitrators. Ultimately, he would keep racing.

Meanwhile, sometime that next month, Sonye called USADA to report Leogrande's "admission of doping," according to the decision.

At the arbitration hearing, which ran for two days last month in Los Angeles, USADA also provided photos of Leogrande holding synthetic EPO vials, along with a UPS notecard from its Upland, Calif., location with this note in what arbitrators would later say appeared to be Leogrande's distinctive handwriting: "Joe, 2 boxes G. 100 iu; 7 boxes E. 60,000; $500. I owed you! Thanks, Kayle."

"E," arbitrators would explain, appears to denote EPO, "G" human growth hormone. Both are banned substances.

At the time, Leogrande lived in Upland. "Joe" is Joe Papp, a former rider who testified for USADA last year against Floyd Landis. Papp has acknowledged doping and testified in the Landis case about the ways synthetic testosterone helped him recover.

At the hearing, USADA also introduced Papp's cell phone records -- showing 274 calls and text messages between Papp and Leogrande between July 2006 and July 2007.

This image, showing Kayle Leogrande holding performance enhancing drugs, was presented as evidence of his doping.With regard to the photos of him holding vials of EPO, Leogrande testified that Papp was showing him -- Leogrande -- a box of vials with liquid that Papp identified as EPO, maintaining further that Papp took the photos without Leogrande's knowledge.

Leogrande testified that he did not put soap on his wrist.

He denied telling Andreu about being sorry.

He said he had no knowledge of the UPS card. He denied the signature was his.

He also, and this is where his credibility before the arbitrators eroded significantly, testified that he had never heard of ventalin, did not have an inhaler nor had ever had one. Ventalin is a name for an inhaler of albuterol.

On cross-examination, Leogrande was shown that he had disclosed the use of albuterol on his doping control forms on July 26 and July 28. His response: he had not completed that part of the form -- the doping control officer must have included that information. When it was pointed out that he had signed the form, he "then recalled that he had a puffer/inhaler" but did not know the name of the product.

The panel would later say that Leogrande "did not recall important events and conversations when it would have been very helpful for him to do so." In contrast, Sonye "did not deviate from the very first instance of her reporting of Leogrande's admissions." She "had nothing to gain by reporting his admissions and a lot to lose, but nevertheless persisted."

"I'm proud of her," Andreu said in a telephone interview. "Being able to stand up and go through the stuff she went through ... she didn't back down."

Leogrande's attorney, Howard Jacobs, declined to comment. USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said, "It's not easy to come forward. But this case clearly demonstrates it's the right thing to do. And it's worthwhile to do so."

**This article originally appears here.

3 comments:

  1. 1 full hour and no hate? Amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is truly amazing. Someone should use profane language soon, please.

    ReplyDelete
  3. aham,claudia senta lá!
    cala a boca galvão!

    ReplyDelete

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