American Floyd Landis, facing the loss of his 2006 Tour de France title on a doping charge, will take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the cyclist said on Wednesday.
Landis will ask the Lausanne-based CAS to overturn the decision handed down on September 20 by a panel of three US arbitrators, who ruled 2-1 that Landis was guilty of using synthetic testosterone during his 2006 Tour campaign.
US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) officials and Landis's attorneys gave evidence to the three-man arbitration panel over nine days in May, the US cycling star maintaining his innocence despite testing positive.
"Knowing that the accusations against me are simply wrong, and having risked all my energy and resources - including those of my family, friends and supporters - to show clearly that I won the 2006 Tour de France fair and square, I will continue to fight for what I know is right," Landis said on an item posted on the floydfairnessfund.org website, through which he has raised money for his defence.
Landis reiterated his belief that the anti-doping system is unfairly weighted against competitors and needs to be changed.
"No matter the final outcome of my case, there must be change in the current system if athletes can ever hope to compete on a level playing field and return to the joy and inspiration that sport can bring all of us," he said.
In a further statement issued through the law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, Landis said the appeal had already been filed.
"I want to take this opportunity to say again that I am innocent of the doping allegations against me," he said. "I hope that the arbitrators of the case will fairly address the facts showing that the French laboratory made mistakes, which resulted in a false positive."
That was the case that Landis attempted to make during his US arbitration hearing, which was open to the public at his own insistence.
Landis attorney Maurice Suh said he still believed the evidence presented by the cyclist at that hearing was enough to exonerate him.
"We are pleased to announce that Floyd will appeal his case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport," Suh said. "We have always believed in the evidence showing that the French laboratory's flawed techniques and conclusions resulted in a false positive result.
"This appeal is directed at having a fair-minded arbitration panel
recognize those errors and apply the facts and law to this case. If this is done, Floyd will have the justice that he seeks."
Suh said the appeal had been filed in conjunction with lawyers from Switzerland, who will join Landis's legal team.
The International Cycling Union, the sport's global governing body, hasn't waited for CAS.
Last month the UCI declared Oscar Pereiro the 2006 Tour de France champion. The Spaniard finished second, 57 seconds behind Landis.
Pereiro is due to receive his yellow jersey as the retrospective winner of the Tour at a ceremony in Madrid on Monday, organizers said this week.
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.
Chronology of events in Landis doping case
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 sacks 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 defence.
December: USADA requests permission to test Landis's seven backup samples to "A" samples from the Tour de France that originally tested clean.
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.
Oct 10: Landis announces he will appeal the US arbitration decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2007