Tuesday, October 24, 2006

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Cyclist Floyd Landis, who finished first in the 2006 Tour de France but is fighting a positive doping test that would strip him of the title, is now pushing his case on the Internet. Facing an appeal before the United States Anti-Doping Agency next year, Landis dubbed this approach “the Wikipedia defense”.

Landis said on October 12, 2006 that he had published a number of documents in the case “to support his innocence in the alleged positive doping test”. These included his attorney’s motion for dismissal, a document package containing test information, and a PowerPoint presentation criticizing the test. This action earned considerable but sometimes-skeptical media coverage in the ongoing saga over the disputed race.

Landis did not set up an actual wiki, but attempted to draw on the collective resources of cycling fans, using the Internet to allow widely distributed review of evidence in his case. He succeeded in getting the community to establish its own wiki independent of him personally, based largely on the Daily Peloton Forum discussions noted below. The topic had already drawn intense interest in a variety of places, including Landis’s Wikipedia entry, which has figured as something of a battleground. The release serves as both a public relations strategy and a way to potentially strengthen his appeal. As Landis put it, “Why turn down free brainpower?”

In anticipation of the release of these documents, Landis had been personally posting on the forums at the Daily Peloton cycling website. He is largely out of action while rehabilitating from hip resurfacing surgery performed in September. As the documents were about to be released, Landis said, “I am sure you guys will find every mistake, even things we haven’t noticed.”

In forum discussions, Landis agreed with sympathetic posters who pointed to this as a “wisdom of crowds” approach, while asking others not to judge him based on incomplete information from media reports. He encouraged people to look at all of the evidence, saying, “We’ll call it the Wikipedia defense, and I would have given everything to you sooner but had a very hard time selling the idea to the lawyers.” At the same time, he said that not all of his arguments against the test had been revealed: “We are not going to compromise our defense by telling all of it.”

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