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Thursday, July 27, 2006
Phonak: Landis had positive test after Stage 17

ESPN.com news services

Floyd Landis' Tour de France victory was thrown into question Thursday when his team said he tested positive for high testosterone levels during Stage 17, when the 30-year-old American champion began his stunning comeback with a gritty charge into the Alps.

Landis wants a chance
In a press conference from Europe, Floyd Landis asked for the opportunity to prove his innocence.

To hear more of Landis' reaction, Click here .

The Phonak team suspended Landis, pending results of the backup "B" sample of his drug test. If Landis is found guilty, he could be stripped of the Tour title and fired from the team.

Landis took part in a conference call from Europe on Thursday evening and said all he wants "is that I be given a chance to prove that I'm innocent."

"I can't stop [judgment on me]," he continued, "but I would like to be assumed innocent until proven guilty since that's the way we do things in America."

"Why couldn't they take care of this before they pronounced him the winner? Lance [Armstrong] went through this too. Somebody doesn't want him to win."

Arlene Landis

Landis received a fax with the test results on Wednesday and has been seeking expert advice since then.

"My immediate reaction was to look for the alcohol bottle," said Landis, who has been known to enjoy a beer on the Tour and said he drank whiskey with teammates to bury their sorrows after he nearly fell out of contention the day before his stage 17 charge.

Turning more somber, Landis said, "My immediate reaction was a disastrous feeling. ... It's hard to put into words. I had everything I could possibly have hoped for and dreamt of. At the exact moment I was told, every single scenario went through my head about what was going to happen. There was no way for me to tell myself that this wasn't going to be a disaster. No matter what happens next I knew it was going to be a long road. So my immediate reaction was from a very, very high to a very low.''

Landis said he's been taking a small amount of hormone for a thyroid condition and receiving cortisone shots for hip pain, but he was not sure if those could skew the results. He rode the Tour with a degenerative hip condition that he has said will require surgery in the coming weeks or months.

Landis said he's aware that he'll see a range of reactions to any explanation he offers and that "I wouldn't blame you if it was a bit skeptical because of what cycling has been through in the past."

Phonak manager John Lelangue said the team would ask that the backup sample be tested in the next few days. Even if the "B" sample confirms the "A" sample results, Landis still would have the opportunity to appeal.

False positive?
Cycling analyst John Eustice said on the The Dan Patrick Show that he thinks Floyd Landis' testosterone test could be a false positive.

To hear more of John Eustice's analysis, click here Insider .

Arlene Landis said her son called Thursday from Europe and told her he had not done anything wrong.

"He said, 'There's no way,'" she said in an interview with The Associated Press at her home in Farmersville, Pa. "I really believe him. I don't think he did anything wrong."

Phonak's statement came a day after the UCI said an unidentified rider had failed a drug test during the Tour.

Arlene Landis wondered about the timing of the announcement.

"Of course he wasn't happy about it, but they're spoiling everything he's supposed to be doing right now," she said. "Why couldn't they take care of this before they pronounced him the winner? Lance [Armstrong] went through this too. Somebody doesn't want him to win.

"Why do they put you through two weeks of misery and spoil your crown? My opinion is when he comes on top of this everyone will think so much more of him. So that's what valleys are for, right?"

Whether Landis' reputation and Tour de France victory are tainted depends in part on the results of the "B" sample. But Landis knows a lot of damage has been done.

"Unfortunately, I don't think it's ever going to go away," he said. "From what I've seen, this seems to be a bigger story than winning the Tour. I think there's a good possibility I can clear my name; that's my objective now. Whether that happens or not, I don't know this will ever really go away."

Landis' triumphant return to the U.S. has certainly gone away. Representatives for the cyclist on Thursday canceled his appearance on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, scheduled for Friday.

Landis said he was still in Europe, but declined to say exactly where. "Not to be elusive, I have to figure out a way to get to the airport and get home," he said.

He'll have plenty to deal with when he gets there.

Dr. Gary Wadler, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency's prohibited list and methods committee, confirmed that while "A" and "B" samples hardly ever differ, the results might not be conclusive of wrongdoing.

The test detects both testosterone and a related steroid called epitestosterone, which is not performance-enhancing. Both are produced by the body and are also made in synthetic form.

Landis' team said his urine sample showed "an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone" when he was tested after his amazing come-from-behind performance in Stage 17 of the race last Thursday.

Under World Anti-Doping Agency regulations, a ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone greater than 4-to-1 is considered a positive result and subject to investigation. The threshold was recently lowered from 6-to-1. The most likely natural ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in humans is 1-to-1.

Testosterone is included as an anabolic steroid on WADA's list of banned substances, and its use can be punished by a two-year ban.

Testosterone can build muscle and improve recovery time when used over a period of several weeks, said Wadler, who is also a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine. But if Landis had been a user, his earlier urine tests during the tour would have been affected, he said.

"So something's missing here," Wadler said. "It just doesn't add up."

Doping in cycling
2006: Tour de France winner Floyd Landis' team says he tested positive for high levels of testosterone after his Stage 17 win.
2006: Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Francisco Mancebo withdraw from the Tour de France after they are named in a doping investigation in Spain.
2005: Spaniard Roberto Heras is banned for two years for testing positive for EPO in the Tour of Spain, which he won.
2004: Three riders are prevented from starting the Tour de France. Two others are kicked out of the race after doping investigations. Britain's David Millar later admits to taking the blood booster erythropoietin.
1998: Festina cycling team expelled in the first week of the Tour de France after a team car was found loaded with performance-enhancing drugs. Festina rider Richard Virenque of France is later banned for six months after admitting doping.
1982: The winner of the Tour of Spain, Spanish rider Angel Arroyo, is disqualified after testing positive for amphetamines.
1967: Briton Tommy Simpson dies on a hill climb during the Tour de France. A vial containing an amphetamine was found.
-- Reuters
Every person's ratio isn't the same, according to Wadler.

"Some people are born with [ratios] that are normally 4-to-1, or maybe 8-to-1," he said. "If they are consistently that way, week after week, there are ways to evaluate that.

"If the elevation exists and occurs naturally in that athlete, we can figure that out. This particular athlete -- Landis, in this case -- I'm sure has had multiple drug tests and a history of his testosterone to epitestosterone ratios, and if there's a sudden aberration, it sends up a red flag."

A spokesman for the International Cycling Union (UCI), the sport's world governing body said the cycling body doesn't require analysis of the "B" sample, but Landis requested it.

"We are confident in the first [test]," Enrico Carpani said. "For us, the first one is already good."

Phonak said Landis would ask for an analysis of his backup sample "to prove either that this result is coming from a natural process or that this is resulting from a mistake."

Lelangue said in a telephone interview: "He will be fighting … waiting for the B analysis and then proving to everyone that this can be natural."

The 30-year-old Landis made a remarkable comeback in that Alpine stage, racing far ahead of the field for a solo win that moved him from 11th to third in the overall standings. He regained the leader's yellow jersey two days later.

Landis wrapped up his Tour de France win on Sunday, keeping the title in U.S. hands for the eighth straight year. Armstrong, long dogged by doping whispers and allegations, won the previous seven. Armstrong never has tested positive for drugs and vehemently has denied doping.

On Thursday, Armstrong was riding in RAGBRAI, an annual bike ride across Iowa that attracts thousands of riders. At the first break in Sully, Iowa, about 50 miles southeast of Des Moines, Armstrong had little to say at the Coffee Cup Cafe, where he grabbed a slice of coconut cream pie and a big glass of ice water.

When asked about Landis, Armstrong told The Associated Press: "I'm not here to talk about that."

After finishing his ride Thursday, however, Armstrong told reporters during a teleconference to wait for the results of Landis' backup sample.

"I don't know much about Floyd's case. I do know that we've got a suspicious 'A' sample and we're waiting on the 'B' sample to be confirmed," said Armstrong, who was teammates with Landis on the winning U.S. Postal Service teams from 2002-04. "Until that happens I don't have anything to say. I'm in Iowa to ride RAGBRAI and hopefully talk to people about cancer."

Landis' inspiring Tour ride reminded many of fellow American Tyler Hamilton's gritty 2003 performance. Hamilton, riding for team CSC, broke his collarbone on the first day of the Tour but rode on, despite the pain, and finished fourth overall.

But, a year later, Hamilton, then riding for Phonak, tested positive for blood doping at a Spanish race and now is serving a two-year ban. He has denied blood doping.

Second-place Tour de France finisher Oscar Pereiro of Spain said he was in no mood to celebrate the possibility of being declared winner.

"Should I win the Tour now it would feel like an academic victory," Pereiro told The Associated Press at his home in Vigo, Spain. "The way to celebrate a win is in Paris, otherwise it's just a bureaucratic win."

USA Cycling spokesman Andy Lee said the organization could not comment on Landis.

"Because it's an anti-doping matter, it's USA Cycling's policy not to comment on that subject out of respect for the process and Floyd's rights," Lee said. "Right now, we have to let the process proceed and we can't comment on it."

Carla O'Connell, publications and communications director for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said: "I'll make this very brief: No comment."

"It is obviously distressing," Tour director Christian Prudhomme said at a Paris news conference, stressing the backup test still must be done. Prudhomme said it would be up to the UCI to determine penalties if Landis is found guilty of doping.

Also Thursday, one of Germany's main television channels threatened to drop coverage of the Tour de France because of Landis' doping test. The ZDF channel demanded guarantees from the UCI and tour organizers that they will take firm steps against doping.

Speculation that Landis had tested positive spread earlier Thursday after he failed to show up for a one-day race in Denmark. A day earlier, he missed a scheduled event in the Netherlands.

On the eve of the Tour's start, nine riders -- including prerace favorites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso -- were ousted, implicated in a Spanish doping investigation.

The names of Ullrich and Basso turned up on a list of 56 cyclists who allegedly had contact with Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, who's at the center of the Spanish doping probe.

World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound, speaking before Landis was confirmed as the rider with the positive test, said it was amazing any cyclist would risk doping after the scandals that rocked the Tour before the start.

"Despite all the fuss prior to the race with all these riders identified and withdrawn, you still have people in that race quite willing and prepared to cheat," he told the AP by phone from Montreal. "That's a problem for cycling."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.