Arbitration ruling: Landis speaks out

Disgraced rider maintains innocence

Floyd Landis has spoken out after being stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title and receiving a two-year ban following the loss of his appeal against a positive doping test. The US abitrators were divided and annouced their 2-1 split decision on Thursday after a four month period of deliberation.

US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) officials and Landis' attorneys had given evidence to the three-man arbitration panel over nine days in May, the US cycling star maintaining his innocence despite testing positive for synthetic testosterone.

"I am innocent and we proved I am innocent," Landis said in a statement. The rider now has only one possible path to regain his crown from the 103rd Tour and avoid a suspension through the end of January of 2009 - appealing the verdict to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Pearl Piatt, a spokeswoman for Landis, said there has been no decision by the US cyclist on whether or not to press his case before CAS, which has jurisdiction to render a final verdict.

"We're still digesting the report," she said. "They are still reading the opinion closely and looking at it."

At one stage, Landis had said the cost of making such a fight might be more than he could afford, with the US arbitration appeal reportedly costing more than two million dollars.

But Landis might not be able to afford not clearing his name given his new status as the first Tour champion stripped of his title for doping.

"This ruling is a blow to athletes and cyclists everywhere," Landis said. "For the panel to find in favor of USADA when, with respect to so many issues, USADA did not manage to prove even the most basic parts of their case shows that this system is fundamentally flawed.

USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart claimed the ruling was "a victory for all clean athletes and everyone who values fair and honest competition.This case is really just another sad example of the crisis of character which plagues some of today's athletes and undermines the honest achievements of all of those athletes who compete with integrity," he said.

"Hopefully, some of the good that comes from this type of case is that other athletes who might be tempted to cheat will recognize that there is no honour in doping to win."

The International Cycling Union, the sport's global governing body, declared Oscar Pereiro the 2006 Tour de France champion. The Spaniard finished second, 57 seconds behind Landis.

"We can right now say that Pereiro is the winner of the Tour without waiting for a possible appeal by Landis to the Court of Arbitration for Sport," UCI president Pat McQuaid declared.

Landis appeared to have fallen out of contention after struggling to the finish of stage 16 in the 2006 Tour, but he rallied to win stage 17 with a stunning effort, pulling back almost eight minutes on his way to an eventual triumph that was tainted by the doping positive and undone by the lost appeal.

Landis was not expected to make public comments on the matter before Monday, Piatt saying that "if it happens it would be next week."

Arbitrators Patrice Brunet and Richard McLaren ruled against Landis while Christopher Campbell dissented.

The verdict comes almost four months after the longest anti-doping hearing in US history, a rare public session in which Landis' lawyers questioned the chain of command from the French laboratory that handles Landis' testing.

"Despite the intense pressure applied by Mr. Landis and his high-priced legal and public relations team, we knew that doing what was right required staying the course and fulfilling our duty to clean athletes," Tygart said.

The Landis camp contended that accuracy and reliability of test procedures of the French AFLD lab and the competency of its findings were suspect, saying their loss showed athletes cannot win through the appeal system.

Arbitrators found violations of WADA rules in test procedures at the
Chatenay-Malabry lab but two of them decided a carbon-isotope analysis showed there was a doping violation despite flaws in the test process.

"This is a miscarriage of justice." said Landis lawyer Maurice Suh. "The majority panel's decision is a disappointment, but particularly so because it failed to address the joint impact of the many errors that the AFLD laboratory committed in rendering this false positive.

"To take each of these errors singly is to ignore the total falsity of the
result. The majority panel has disregarded the testimony of Mr. Landis' experts."

World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound said his group would analyze the findings but had no further comment because Landis could appeal to CAS.

The Floyd Landis doping timeline:

2006
July 19: Landis loses the Tour de France yellow jersey after a disastrous
stage 16 in the Alps. He falls more than eight minutes behind leader Oscar
Pereiro of Spain.

July 20: Landis relaunches his bid for the Tour de France yellow jersey in
spectacular style, winning the 17th stage after a daring raid of 130km. His
stage win puts him just 30 seconds behind race leader Pereiro.

July 23: A day after seizing the yellow jersey in the time trial, Landis becomes the third US cyclist to win the Tour de France.

July 27: International Cycling Union (UCI) announce an unidentified Tour de
France rider has tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Landis prompts speculation when he withdraws from races in Denmark and the Netherlands. Landis's Phonak team confirms his "A" sample tested positive for an abnormal level of testosterone.

July 27: Landis denies doping in a teleconference with US reporters.

July 31: The New York Times quotes an anonymous source as saying Landis's
"A" sample showed the presence of synthetic testosterone.

Aug 5: UCI say Landis's "B" sample confirms the "A" result. Phonak sack him. Tour de France officials declare they no longer consider him the race
champion, although he can't be stripped of the title until the adjudication
process is complete.

Aug 15: Phonak owner Andy Rihs announces he is disbanding the team.

Sept 9: US Anti-Doping Agency denies motion by Landis lawyer Howard Jacobs to dismiss the case.

Sept 29: Landis undergoes hip replacement surgery.

October 12: Landis posts hundreds of pages of technical documents related
to his case on his website, along with a presentation by doctor Arnie Baker
outlining what Landis's camp believes are scientific and clerical errors in
the testing. The website posting is followed by a series of public appearances
drumming up public support and funding for Landis's defense.

December: USADA requests permission to test Landis's seven backup samples to "A" samples from the Tour de France that originally tested clean.

2007
January 12: The French Anti-Doping Agency summons Landis but agrees to
delay its probe until after Landis's USADA arbitration is completed.

April: Arbitrators vote 2-1 to allow testing of Landis "B" samples at the
French lab that conducted original Tour de France tests. Results may possibly
be used as evidence, although they can't be considered positive results. French sports daily L'Equipe quotes an anonymous source as saying several of the samples showed the presence of synthetic testosterone. Landis camp claims its observers were denied access to testing and analysis.

May: Nine-day arbitration hearing conducted where Landis and USADA present their case to a three-person arbitration panel.

Sept 20: Arbitration decision announced, 2-1 against Landis; UCI names 2006 Tour de France runner-up Oscar Pereiro the official champion.

© BikeRadar & AFP 2007

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