Pound defends anti-doping lab in Landis probe

LONDON -- World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound
defended the French lab whose credibility is under scrutiny for its
handling of Floyd Landis' samples during the Tour de France.

Pound said Wednesday the case against the American cyclist
should not be derailed by a mistake in the labeling of his backup
urine specimen and the theft of data from the lab by computer

"For me, the real problem is the activities of several hackers
who entered into the system without permission, possibly against
the law," Pound said in a conference call. "We have to wait for
the result of the investigation. For the specific [Landis] case,
there will be a hearing in January. The arbitrators will consider
all the evidence."

On Wednesday, the French daily Le Monde reported that the lab
made an "administrative error" in handling Landis' samples,
listing the wrong number in its report on the backup "B"

"I don't know who did what," Pound said. "Our rule as a
monitoring agency is to wait and see what the facts are."

The lab, accredited by WADA and the International Olympic
Committee, analyzed the two urine samples that showed elevated
testosterone to epitesterone levels in Landis' system when he won
the Tour de France in July.

Landis, who denies doping, will defend his case at a U.S.
arbitration hearing. If found guilty of a doping offense, he would
be formally stripped of the Tour title and face a two-year ban.

French authorities said Tuesday they were investigating a breach
of the computer system at the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory outside
Paris. Hackers allegedly accessed material from the computers and
sent out letters to Olympic and doping officials in an effort to
discredit the lab.

Pound said an administrative mistake does not compromise the
finding that Landis' samples tested positive.

"The code contemplates minor errors that don't affect the lab's
ability and the analysis," he said. "Ideally you don't want there
to be any errors, administrative or otherwise. We just have to wait
and see. It's kind of an unusual situation. It's entirely possible
that all of this information has been illegally obtained."

Pound dismissed suggestions the case could be dropped because of
the error.

"I have total confidence in the procedure that will give Mr.
Landis the full opportunity to present his case, and for the lab to
give its position," he said. "A trio of arbitrators will decide
based on the facts and not what we read in the newspapers."

Pound spoke ahead of WADA's executive committee and foundation
board meeting in Montreal on Sunday and Monday. WADA will review
the first draft revision of its global anti-doping code, which sets
out common rules and sanctions for all sports and countries. The
final version will come up for approval at the next world
anti-doping conference in September in Madrid.

The International Association of Athletics Federations has
proposed doubling the standard penalty for a serious doping
violation from a two-year to four-year suspension. While no
decision is expected at this meeting, Pound said experts would need
to examine whether a four-year ban would stand up in civil courts.

WADA will elect a vice president to succeed Denmark's Brian
Mikkelsen. French sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour is the only
candidate, having been nominated by European ministers last month.
He will be in a leading position to replace Pound when his term
expires next year.

Pound said WADA will renew its push for governments to ratify
the UNESCO convention on doping. Only 24 countries have done so,
six short of the number required for the treaty to take formal

Pound also singled out Mexico for failing to pay its share of
the WADA budget, which will be increased by 3 percent to $23
million in 2007.

On a separate issue, Pound expressed concern that testing for
human growth hormone is being done only a limited scale and
suggested use of the substance is widespread, particularly in North
American professional leagues.

"We think there's far more use out there than people suspect,"
he said. "People have been encouraged by the fact that there has
not been rigorous testing. We hope to provide as much discomfort as
soon as we can."