Landis link to French "hack attack"?

A report in L'Equipe alleged on Tuesday that the French anti-doping lab which tested Floyd Landis's

A report in L'Equipe alleged on Tuesday that the French anti-doping lab which tested Floyd Landis's

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The already sinuous saga of Floyd Landis' positive test for testosterone underwent another remarkable twist on Tuesday, as L'Equipe linked a member of the American's entourage to a computer sting on the Chatenay-Malabry dope-testing lab.

According to L'Equipe, investigators suspect that "someone close to Landis" is involved in a hacking scam designed to undermine the credibility of the French lab. Scientists at Chatenay-Malabry famously performed the tests on the urine samples which snared Landis after stage 17 of this year's Grande Boucle. Since then, Landis' legal and medical team have defended him on the basis of what they believe were gross errors in the testing procedures.

L'Equipe reports that similar errors were highlighted in documents purportedly written by a laboratory insider and sent to, among others, WADA, the UCI, the International Olympic Committee and Landis' attorney Howard Jacobs. Investigators apparently believe that someone "hacked" into the lab's computer system and pieced together old documents to create an "insider's account" of malpractice at Chatenay-Malabry.

A scientist at a WADA-accredited laboratory in Montreal, Christine Ayotte, told L'Equipe that she was immediately suspicious when, at the end of October, she received an e-mail from an unfamiliar-sounding Chatenay-Malabry source. Other recipients noticed spelling mistakes and inconsistencies in the attached documents.

The report goes on to allege that the author of at least one of the messages has been identified as a member of Landis' inner circle. The American has forcefully protested his innocence of doping offences ever since his positive test was confirmed by the Chatenay-Malabry just days after he was enthroned as Tour champion in Paris. It surely follows that he will be outraged by L'Equipe's allegations today.

Whatever the outcome - and L'Equipe states that the investigation is ongoing - the episode must be considered the crowning glory at the end of professional cycling's annus ridiculus. Or maybe that's still to come: the announcement of Tyler Hamilton's new team is due any moment now.

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