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Pound again backs French lab in Landis case

Pound again backs French lab in Landis case

The head of the World Anti-Doping Agency reiterated his full confidence Wednesday in the French laboratory that tested Floyd Landis' samples from the Tour de France.
WADA president Dick Pound defended the Chatenay-Malabry lab, which found that Landis recorded elevated levels of testosterone _ including synthetic versions of the substance _ when he won last year's Tour.
The American rider and his defense team have repeatedly attacked the credibility of the lab, alleging that it has committed numerous procedural and other mistakes.
"It is an accredited laboratory by WADA," Pound said in a teleconference. "That means it has met some very stringent quality-control requirements in the sense of being able to detect the presence of prohibited substances in samples.
"It's one of the leading laboratories in the world and has spearheaded some of the breakthroughs in tests for EPO and so forth. We have no reason to think that the work done in that lab, and frankly in any of our other labs, is sub-par. We have confidence in what it's done."
On other issues, Pound urged China to toughen anti-doping measures before the 2008 Beijing Olympics and said WADA will consider doubling the standard doping penalty from two to four years.
Landis' camp launched new accusations against the French lab on Sunday, saying it had mishandled and erased computer files involving his tests.
French Anti-Doping Agency director Pierre Bordry said that, even before Landis' latest criticism, the agency had asked for a separate outside review of how the lab handled the case.
Landis has an arbitration hearing May 14 in California, where he is expected to question the practices of the French lab.
If doping accusations are upheld, he faces a two-year ban from competition. He also would be the first rider in the 104-year history of the Tour to be stripped of the title. He already has agreed not to compete in this year's event while the case is pending.
Landis tested positive for elevated testosterone to epitestosterone levels after he won the 17th stage in a stunning comeback that put him in line to win the Tour.
Pound said WADA is considering relaxing its rules to let anti-doping bodies respond publicly when they believe athletes or their backers are making false or misleading statements about ongoing cases.
"It's frustrating especially because some athletes and their entourage like to take their case to the public before it's been heard," he said, without mentioning Landis. "There's no rule to prevent that. The only folks that have their hands tied are the anti-doping organizations who do not comment. It's certainly a disadvantage."
Also, Pound said China is viewed as a source of illegal drugs easily available over the Internet, a key issue in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics.
"I don't know whether there is a solution prior to 2008, but it is a problem and they recognize it and are trying to address it," he said.
Pound repeated his call for China to sharply increase its drug-testing program, noting that the world's most populous country carried out about as many doping controls in 2005 _ 8,000 _ as Australia, which has only about 21 million people.
Pound urged China to set up a national anti-doping agency and create a strong drug-testing system for the Beijing Games.
"The world is going to assess the success of the games in Beijing not just if the buses run on time but on whether or not their is an effective national anti-doping process in China," he said. "If China appears with athletes who nobody ever heard of and wins all the gold medals, that would be a problem and the games would not be a success."
On the issue of sanctions, Pound said WADA will consider doubling penalties to four years at the world anti-doping conference in Madrid in September.
"There has been some scientific research done which suggests that benefits of using steroids last much more than two years," Pound said. "That gives some weight to increasing the penalty in some of those cases. There's a good argument to be made for it and we will consider it."