Angie: The Sports Authority

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Floyd Landis claims for innocence

It was an important move for him. Floyd Landis set out on a vigorous public campaign yesterday to declare that he did not use performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France.

As we all know, Landis last month became the third American to win the Tour, and he spoke to about a dozen television stations and newspapers in hopes of repairing his reputation after being accused of cheating.

“I’m having some bad days now, but I now have a new goal, and it’s to prove myself innocent and to figure out exactly what’s going on behind the scenes here,” he expressed on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” during an interview in which he appeared with his wife, Amber. He denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs.

Landis provided a urine sample after Stage 17 of the Tour, the day he catapulted himself from 11th place back into contention for the overall victory. That sample was divided into A and B samples. On July 27, the A sample came back positive for a high ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, and also for synthetic testosterone. On Saturday, the International Cycling Union announced that the B sample confirmed the initial results.

Landis’s pleas of innocence have not protected him from the consequences of his test results. The Tour director, Christian Prudhomme, expressed Saturday that Landis was no longer considered champion of the event.

And yesterday, the organizers of a race outside Chicago, the Tour of Elk Grove, notified Landis that they no longer wanted him to compete — or even sign autographs — at their race, which makes its debut this weekend and has a $25,000 first prize.

“We didn’t want that image associated with our event,” expressed the race’s director, Nick Sepke, in a telephone interview. “The persons here, Floyd’s persons, everyone was disappointed with it, but we didn’t want to do anything to damage our event.”

Landis cannot compete in any International Cycling Union ProTour events because his Phonak team fired him, but he is still free to race in certain events in the United States, like the Tour of Elk Grove, expressed Andy Lee, a spokesman for USA Cycling.

After Saturday’s result announcement, Landis’s case was referred to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which will decide in about a month whether to charge him with an official doping violation. More than 95 percent of the athletes whose cases go to the antidoping agency’s review panel are charged with a doping offense, according to USADA. If Landis chooses not to fight the charge, he would be stripped of his Tour title and barred from the sport for two years.

Still, Landis, who declined interview requests from The New York Times, has spent the past two days advocating his side of the case after remaining silent since a news conference July 28 in Madrid. He told reporters yesterday that he had no idea why the urine sample he gave after Stage 17 came back positive.

He and his lawyers have offered possible explanations: the whiskey and beer he drank the night before, the thyroid medicine he was taking, dehydration, a naturally high testosterone or a combination of those.

But Landis backed away from those possible excuses yesterday, saying he felt forced to quickly come up with answers for persons who might assume he was guilty. He now realizes that doing so was a mistake, and he blamed the shock and confusion from learning about his positive test on the heels of an exhausting three-week race. He expressed those comments were a failed effort to try to separate himself from other cyclists who had tested positive before.

Landis, a former teammate of the seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong, has expressed that he has never taken performance-enhancing drugs, including testosterone. He expressed he questioned the validity of the carbon isotope ratio test, which antidoping labs use to determine the presence of synthetic testosterone in an athlete’s urine.

“The test is not conclusive proof,” expressed Landis’s spokesman, Michael Henson.

Still, Henson expressed, Landis is not making any claims that his urine samples were tampered with at the French national antidoping lab, where the tests were done. “He is not going to embark on any conspiracy theories,” Henson expressed.

During his round of interviews yesterday, Landis accused the International Cycling Union and the drug testers at the French lab of having what he expressed was “an agenda.” He expressed the cycling union was corrupt, and he criticized it for revealing the test results from the A sample before the B sample was tested, which he expressed was a breach of the cycling union’s own rules.

Pat McQuaid, the president of the cycling union, expressed the results of the A sample were released, but not the rider’s name, to stave off accusations that the cycling union was hiding the facts. He expressed doing so made the process more transparent, and he blamed Landis’s team for revealing that Landis was the rider who had tested positive.

“I find this very sad," McQuaid expressed. “These are outside issues. What Floyd has to deal with are the results of his tests.”

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