Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Is French Lab in Breach of Contract???

WADAwatch was interested in the aspects surrounding the news of the Iban Mayo EPO case, that came to light on 23 October 2007, via news reports (Reuters, the Canadian Press, VeloNews or, en français, l'Equipe) of 'unreadable' B Sample conclusions in the Belgian laboratory in Ghent.

Several amazing aspects of this case have come to mind, and this short post again will only touch on those.

The first aspect is this: as a 'Major Event Organization', the Amaury Sport Organization, operating the Tour de France as a UCI-licensed ProTour event (whether they appreciate that august distinction is a different story), is obliged to provide doping-testing services and facilities, which, for as long as this author knows, have been contracted out to the former Laboratoire Nationale du dépistage du dopage (LNDD), which is now renamed the 'département des analyses' under the Agence française de lutte antidopage.

WADAwatch is amazed, that in the contract that encumbers the above-mentioned parties, that the 'LNDD-cum-DDA' is provided to take a vacation during the middle of their most important, perhaps highest-paying, and certainly the most media-attracting series of tests that they perform annually.

While discussing this, does anyone recall that former 2006 Tour de France victor Floyd Landis, based his arguments on the incapacities (or incompetences) found in the violations of multiple regulations that govern the WADA-accredited labs? He requested his B Confirmation samples be tested at a separate facility, a request that he was denied.

So it is impressive to see that now, apparently, in 2007, the laboratory that is best known as a recidivist agent for leaking A Sample test results to the French sporting journal l'Equipe, decided it was more important to shut down for vacation, than to perform the terms of the contract that they held, perhaps with UCI, perhaps with TdF, perhaps with the Federation française de cyclisme, whoever...

So that Iban Mayo's samples were expedited off to the laboratory in Ghent, Belgium, where they were found 'illegible'.

So the next query, is how did a 'clear positive' A Sample show up in a separate laboratory, and become illegible? Was it mishandled? Improperly stored? Defrosted and then re-frozen? Is the Chain of Custody no help in providing additional information?

And while the Spanish cycling federation had previously proclaimed this B sample to be 'negative', the UCI (and Pat McQuaid, President, as well as Anne Gripper) wants the sample brought back to the LNDD-Département des analyses for a second, 'readable' testing session.

Is this fair to Iban Mayo?

Fair that LNDD, in the priorities it apparently holds dear, which, provisionally, are:
  • a) to leak 'A Sample' results to l'Equipe,
  • b) go on vacation,
  • c) perform its contractual duties
Remember clearly written in the rules, is an aspect of confidentiality, which apparently in France only relates clearly, in law, to the marital life of its President, and his recent divorce.

Is this fair, that two labs within several hours of each other, and both accredited by WADA, cannot perform a test in the 'reasonable time' that the law requires?

Anne Gripper was quoted as having said (by the CanadianPress website):

"To ensure that the rider could have the B done more quickly, we transferred the sample, but the Ghent laboratory just couldn't get the sample to confirm the Paris" result, Gripper said.

Read that carefully, literally. Were those her true words?

It is not in the WADA CODE, or International Standard for Laboratories, nor the International Standard for testing, that a B Sample 'must confirm the Paris result'.

Translation error? Typing error?

An A Sample test, done objectively, professionally and by the WADA regulations, must reveal results that are reproducible. Data must be protected. Files must be correct, and the Chain of Custody impeccable. The B Sample may reveal that the A sample test is not accurate.

'Insuring that the rider could have the B result more quickly' is not what the rules state.

Now between WADA, UCI and the French or Belgian laboratories, it is hard to believe that Mayo hasn't a pure case of laboratory intransigence, or malfeasance, on which to proceed in justice. UCI itself, in publishing the Vrijman report, has been on notice about the apparent scientific capacities of the French laboratory, and if perhaps it has, itself, been used by this laboratory, would be a sad event,

In WADAwatch's opinion.

Watch! WADA

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