Floyd Landis defends role at conference

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Floyd Landis hit back at organizers of the road cycling world championships for attempting to have his invitation to an anti-doping conference revoked.

Landis, stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title because of doping, will join legal experts, scientists and academics on a panel at the New Pathways for Pro Cycling conference at Deakin University leading up to the world championships Sept. 29-Oct. 3 at Geelong.

Landis responded to criticism of his participation in the conference by saying he had no intention of using it as a "soapbox," nor did he wish to "hijack the world championships."

David Culbert, a spokesman for the championship, confirmed Monday that race organizers had withdrawn support for the Sept. 27-28 conference and again questioned the decision to include Landis on the program.

"The imprimatur of the organizing committee has been withdrawn and the conference won't be run under the auspices of the championships or part of the championships program," Culbert said.

"Floyd Landis is the subject of an ongoing U.S. federal investigation, and while that investigation is ongoing, the organizing committee does not believe it's appropriate to be lending its official title to it. But it doesn't mean the conference can't continue."

A championship spokesman condemned the university's decision to include Landis and threatened to pull support for the Sept. 27-28 conference unless the invitation was withdrawn.

After years of denials, Landis has admitted using performance-enhancing drugs and accused others, including former teammate and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong of doping.

Armstrong has denied doping, and his attorney has described Landis as a "serial liar."

"I will not, and cannot, discuss events or circumstances related to the ongoing investigations and lawsuits involving Lance Armstrong and certain of his current and former business associates and teammates, including what I saw and heard during the relevant time periods," Landis said in a weekend statement.

"Indeed, the behavior and comments of the persons and organizations that seek to shut down the conference as a consequence of my participation demonstrate that they are interested only in selfishly perpetuating their own positions and purported authority at the expense of progressive reform and in total disregard of the sport's long-term interests."

Conference organizer Martin Hardie told The Associated Press on Monday that Landis' involvement in the conference is not in doubt.

Hardie, a law lecturer at the university, said the conference has "support from so many people throughout the cycling world, from the World Anti-Doping Agency, from teams, from a number of national federations, from cyclists. Why would he not be appearing?"

Hardie was confident Landis would be able to make a meaningful contribution to the conference and the wider fight against the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

"We sent out a global invitation to everybody in the cycling world and a number of people responded," Hardie said. "A number of people expressed interest in participating, but have come under immense pressure not to participate. Floyd was one of those who responded."

Landis said he wants to participate in the conference so he can be a "catalyst for positive change."

"My intention in participating in the conference is simple," he said in the statement. "By offering an inside perspective of an athlete confronted with decisions regarding the use of banned performance enhancing drugs, I hope to be able to contribute to a better understanding of how those decisions come to be made, and how athletes can be better supported by those in a position to facilitate better decisions, including owners, sponsors, doctors, directors, riders and fans."

Conference organizers earlier issued a statement explaining why Landis should be involved.

"The role and reputation of a university is based on its ability to contribute to informed public debate on matters of importance to society," the statement said. "The topic of doping in cycling is such an issue. We recognize it is a controversial one and is, therefore, worth discussion in itself.

"We know that this cannot occur without a robust exchange from a diversity of views from people, including Mr. Landis, who are prepared to speak openly and be part of the solution for the sport."