Archive for Sunday, August 6, 2006

Backup test deems Landis guilty

Cyclist discredited, disowned when elevated levels of testosterone appeared in ‘B’ sample

August 6, 2006

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— The Tour de France no longer calls him champion. His cycling team cut him loose.

About the only chance Floyd Landis has of keeping his prized yellow jersey will now likely be decided by an appeals process that could drag on for months.

Landis was discredited and disowned in short order Saturday when elevated levels of testosterone showed up in his "B" or second doping sample - as it did in the initial "A" sample released last week.

The samples also contained synthetic testosterone, indicating that it came from an outside source.

If stripped of the title, Landis would become the first winner in the 103-year history of cycling's premier race to lose his Tour crown over doping allegations.

Landis again denied cheating.

"I have never taken any banned substance, including testosterone," he said in a statement. "I was the strongest man at the Tour de France, and that is why I am the champion.

"I will fight these charges with the same determination and intensity that I bring to my training and racing. It is now my goal to clear my name and restore what I worked so hard to achieve."

The International Cycling Union said it would ask USA Cycling to open disciplinary proceedings. Documentation from the tests will be forwarded to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which will turn it over to a review panel. USADA will ultimately decide if a penalty - likely a two-year ban - is appropriate. Landis can accept the decision or begin an appeals process, which can take up to six months and involve the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

UCI lawyer Philippe Verbiest said Landis would officially remain Tour champion pending that process. The decision to strip him of his title rests with UCI.

"Until he is found guilty or admits guilt, he will keep the yellow jersey," he said. "This is normal. You are not sanctioned before you are found guilty."

But the Tour itself wasted no time in distancing itself from the American.

"It goes without saying for us Floyd Landis is no longer the winner of the 2006 Tour de France," race director Christian Prudhomme said.

Prudhomme said runner-up Oscar Pereiro likely would be declared the new winner.

"We can't imagine a different outcome," he said.

Reached in his hometown of Vigo, Spain, Pereiro saw it shaping up that way, too.

"Now I consider myself the winner," he said.

Pereiro said he regretted not being able to celebrate properly - in Paris in the winners jersey.

"I would have liked to have lived that day, it would have been the best day of my life, as a sportsman," he said.

Pereiro also felt badly for Landis.

"I consider him my friend, it surprised me and hurt me to hear what had happened to him," he said.

Within 45 minutes of the "B" sample announcement, the Swiss-based team Phonak fired its captain for "violating the teams internal Code of Ethics."

Phonak stood by Tyler Hamilton throughout his blood-doping case two years ago; Landis, however, is getting no support.

"This will be his personal affair, and the Phonak team will no longer be involved," a statement said.

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