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Network World - Disputed Tour de France champion Floyd Landis is pioneering the use of social network tools to rally a collective consciousness in his fight against allegations that he used a banned substance to help him win the world’s greatest cycling race.
In today’s guilty-until-proven-innocent world of doping charges against cyclists and other athletes – most recently swimmer Ian Thorpe – Landis has turned to the court of public opinion using a “wiki defense” and “crowdsourcing” to gain knowledge and build his case for a formal legal hearing.
Landis, with the help of his one-time coach Dr. Arnie Baker, hopes the Web and social network technology will help them uncover and confirm what he calls grievous mistakes that resulted in a positive test that he used a banned substance to help him win the Tour de France.
Of course, while Landis professes his innocence to charges that he used a synthetic form of the male hormone testosterone to boost his performance, the Tour de France organization already does not recognize him as the race champion. The International Cycling Union stands ready to strip him of the title if his appeals process fails, and after years of drug scandals in cycling many have already branded Landis with the scarlet letter of a cheater.
He faces becoming the first winner in the 103-year history of the race to be stripped of his title, but most important, his career could be all but over.
To fight back, he has gone “full-monty” in putting his case before the public.
First, he exercised his option with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to have a public hearing on his doping charges, becoming the first athlete ever to do so.
He then took the unique step to publish online, Wikipedia-style, the 370 pages of his lab tests for the world to read and evaluate, a move that would send shivers down the spine of HIPAA-compliance officers.
“The wiki has been quite productive,” says Baker, who gets hundreds of e-mails a day from people who have pored over the documents on Landis’s drug tests and offered insight into myriad alleged procedural and other mistakes that Landis says led to his positive test.
“People have contacted me and said ‘this would not be a positive test in our lab,’ ” Baker says. He says many experts have helped confirm his assertion that Landis’s urine sample was not fit for testing and the testing itself was fundamentally flawed.
In addition, Landis is touring the country with Baker and his publicist, Michael Henson, conducting “Town Hall” meetings as part of the Floyd Fairness Fund to discuss the perceived mistakes made by the French testing lab that handled his urine sample.
He is also using the meetings to raise money for a defense that has already gobbled up $250,000 of his own money and requires $150,000 a month to sustain.
But it is his use of the Web and wikis to harness the collective wisdom of those interested in the case that has helped him add ammunition to a defense he will take before the USADA on May 14 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.