French Court Issues Arrest Warrant Accusing Cyclist Floyd Landis of Hacking

February 16, 2010 by David S. Seltzer

In 2006, the cycling world endured a small scandal when that year’s Tour de France winner, American Floyd Landis, was stripped of his title for doping. This week, that case is getting resurrected in a way that interests me as a West Palm Beach cyber crime criminal defense attorney. The Los Angeles Times reported Feb. 16 that French authorities now believe Landis or someone connected to him hacked into the computer system of the laboratory handling his doping test. A French judge has issued an arrest warrant for Landis, which would call him in for questioning about the September 2006 incident. The same judge also issued a warrant for Arnie Baker, a coach and advisor to Landis whose computer French authorities believe was used in the alleged hacking.

French authorities accuse Landis or his associate of breaking into computers for the Agence Francais de Lutte contre le Dopage, or AFLD. That laboratory was retained by the Tour de France to test participants and found synthetic testosterone in Landis during the 2006 race, leading authorities to take away his title and ban him from cycling for two years. Landis unsuccessfully appealed that decision, arguing that the lab made mistakes and was biased. The September 2006 hacking incident took place at the same time Landis was defending himself from the initial charges. Specifically, the newspaper said, French authorities have found evidence tying the hacking to an email address belonging to Baker. Neither Landis nor Baker can actually be arrested unless they travel to France.

A computer expert interviewed by the Times said it was unusual to see hacking against an organization with the extensive logs AFLD is apparently claiming. He suggested that a third party with authorization to enter the system may be responsible. This is just one of the avenues I would explore, as a Miami-Dade cyber crime defense lawyer. Expert hackers know how to cover their tracks, which is one reason why I’d want to verify that the email address connected to Baker was genuine and not “spoofed,” and that any connection to his computer is genuine. And like the expert above, I’d also want to look for an “insider” who could get the information in question without breaching the lab’s security.

Landis and his fight against the doping charges would have been in the news at the time of the breach. This could easily have made them a tempting target for hackers looking to misdirect investigators. As a Fort Lauderdale hacking criminal defense attorney, I would start my defense of a client like Landis with a thorough computer forensic investigation. Because technology has advanced so quickly in the past two decades, lawmakers and prosecutors can’t always tell when the electronic record of a crime has been “spoofed” or otherwise falsified. As a former cyber crime prosecutor, I handled multiple cases where details mattered -- sometimes details as small as the time on the computer’s internal clock. These details can make or break your case, determining your freedom and your reputation for years to come.