Landis probe is 'significant' - WADA chief

Inquiry could take months to complete

Disgraced champion Floyd Landis's allegations about doping in cycling have sparked a "significant"  inquiry that could take months to complete, a world anti-doping chief said Tuesday.

David Howman, Director General of the World Anti Doping Agency, told AFP that WADA had helped US investigators establish cooperation with European counterparts through Interpol as the probe broadens.

Landis's claims in May prompted the US authorities to launch a federal investigation led by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) special agent Jeff Novitzky, who dismantled a key doping network in the United States before.

"This investigation has been going on for many weeks and I think it is a significant inquiry," Howman said. "And it's one that might go on for many more weeks because it essentially started with a US inquiry and is spreading," he explained.

"We've been persuading people to cooperate and think that would be helpful."

Landis, a former member of US Postal, won the Tour de France in 2006 while riding for Phonak, only to be stripped of the title after testing positive for testosterone.

Having consistently claimed his innocence for years, the American finally confessed to doping last month.

But in a bid to "clear his conscience", he took his claims much further and accused seven-times Tour champion Lance Armstrong, and several other former teammates, of using banned doping products or methods at US Postal.

Armstrong, who has consistently rejected such allegations, hit out Saturday only hours before the start of his final Tour de France race at more "false" doping accusations levelled by Landis.

Howman said information from any athlete could not be dismissed.

"We have to say we were disappointed at having to spend so much money pursuing Mr Landis, but you can't say that's something which should stop you from listening to him," he added.

"That would show a closed mind."

Howman reiterated that WADA was ready to listen to any leads that would help fight doping.

Novitzky led a successful probe into the BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative) scandal, which produced and supplied designer drugs for Major League Baseball players and athletes, leading to several convictions including that of American sprint star Marion Jones.

© AFP 2010

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