You can't win 'em all -- not even the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The seven-year-old agency suffered its first-ever defeat in a
case brought to arbitration Friday when a three-person arbitration
panel ruled in favor of sprinter LaTasha Jenkins, who had been
sanctioned for using the anabolic steroid nandralone.
USADA's overall record fell to 36-1 since it started prosecuting
American athletes for doping violations. Jenkins, a 2001 world
track medalist, now has the option of resuming her effort to try
for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team.
The arbitration panel ruled the results of Jenkins' positive
doping test from a track meet in Belgium last year were compromised
because both European labs testing her sample violated
international standards that require the tests be run by two
"It's a good day for athletes," said Michael Straubel, a
Valparaiso Law School professor who worked for free for Jenkins,
along with four Valpo law students. "The panel acknowledged that
an allegation of doping is a serious matter which profoundly
affects an athlete, and laboratories therefore must ensure the
highest scientific reliability of the testing process."
Jenkins had been coached by Trevor Graham, who is charged with
three felony counts of making false statements to federal
investigators. The government has accused him of lying in 2004 when
he denied distributing steroids or telling his athletes where they
could get them. His trial is pending.
Friday's decision was similar to one in favor of Spanish cyclist
Inigo Landaluce last year. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled
the lab that tested his sample violated testing standards. That
case was not prosecuted by USADA.
Holding labs to higher standards was a key issue in the heavily
publicized Floyd Landis doping case earlier this year -- a case
Landis lost even though the arbitration panel acknowledged holes in
the testing practices at the French lab that analyzed his urine.
Landis and attorney Maurice Suh said part of the reason they
took their case public was to expose the process and push for
improvements in the future.
"I want USADA, when accusing people of breaking the rules, to
follow the rules," Landis said. "Here you have a person who is
missing a year of her life. You can't possibly put a value on
Suh said he wasn't surprised USADA's first loss came in a
relatively low-profile case. Still, he thought it was a sign the
explosive Landis case might have had an effect.
"I hope we brought attention to problems in testing and to the
fact that rules are important," Suh said. "They shouldn't be
enforced one way against one athlete and other ways against others
depending on the political pressure that's going on."
Travis Tygart, the CEO of USADA, said he could not comment on
the Jenkins case since it is technically still considered to be
"USADA is not the judge," Tygart said, speaking in general
about cases. "At the end of the day, independent arbitrators make
a decision through an established process that's designed to
protect the accused athlete's rights. They base the decision on the