So long, and thanks for all the fish

Tomorrow is 2009. It feels a long way from 2006 when Floyd Landis won the Tour de France. Today sees the closure of Trust But Verify, a daily media monitoring blog started by cyclist Dave Brower. His writing was soon joined by two external, expert authors (one of whom was a judge) and there was always a very lively bunch of forum commentators.

The closure of TbV is to be expected. Landis lost. It was always going to be so. Guilty of strapping on man-juice or not, he never stood a chance. We know this now. Many couldn’t believe the appeals procedure would allow the ‘conviction’ of somebody when the evidence was so contradictory.

Some of those incredulous few have been asked to write some closing statements on TbV, myself included. My screed is repeated below but it’s well worth spending some time reading the closing statements from the experts, most of whom think the anti-doping system stinks. But there are also some dissenting voices, folks who think the right guy was nailed and that no misfeasance took place at all.

The experts include lawyers, doctors, testosterone testing experts, bloggers, racers and high-calibre scientists. Many of those saying their goodbyes were principal players in the Floyd Landis v WADA saga.

Here’s my valedictory:

Trust But Verify is closing, but I don’t feel closure.

And if I also feel somewhat bitter and twisted, that’s nothing to how Floyd Landis must have felt since the beginning of this sorry saga.

I came into this subject equipped with standard-issue, media-myopia goggles. WADA was pure, accused athletes were dirty, cheating scum.

I’m saying my goodbyes to TbV a whole lot more cynical about the anti-doping process. As TbV demonstrated, the anti-doping movement is enclosed, self-perpetuating and omnipotent. It resembles a religious cult. Leaders who brook no opposition; acolytes willing to do or die for the leadership; a central, easily-absorbed, hard-to-refute moral tenet (‘you’re bad, we’re good’); exterior, no-strings funding; hair-trigger lynch-mob mentality; and Spanish Inquisition style jurisprudence.

Fanciful? A touch. But viewed through this prism it’s now clear Landis never stood a chance. You can’t attack a faith-based system with rationality or science, a faith-based system operates to its own, bendable rules.

Landis may have lost, but his fight – documented so well by TbV – opened a lot of people’s eyes, mine included. Injustice is in the DNA of WADA. Without a major overhaul of how accusations can be refuted, innocent athletes will continue to be ensnared alongside guilty ones. This isn’t right, it isn’t fair. Welcome to WADA world.