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Just two weekends on from securing a sensational victory in the Tour de France, Floyd Landis is set to become the race's first winner to be stripped of the title for doping after a test on his B sample from stage 17 of the Tour confirmed abnormal levels of testosterone. The announcement of the result by the International Cycling Union led by a subsequent announcement by Landis's Phonak team that the 30-year-old American had been sacked.
In their statement, the UCI said: "The UCI communicates that the analysis of the sample B of Floyd Landis's urine has confirmed the result of an adverse analytical finding notified by the anti-doping laboratory of Paris on July 26, following the analysis of the sample A. In accordance with the anti-doping rules, the Anti-doping Commission of the UCI will request that the USA Cycling Federation open a disciplinary procedure against the rider."
In truth, the confirmation of Landis's positive test provokes little surprise given the American's legal team had admitted they expected the result of the test on the B sample to be the same as that on the A sample. Tour de France director Christophe Prudhomme admitted as much when he said this morning: "The body blow came last week. We know that virtually the whole time the B sample confirms the initial result. My feeling is that it is a real waste but also that we have to battle really hard against drug-taking. We cannot tolerate the yellow jersey being soiled."
Prudhomme asserted that the news should be used to bring pressure to bear on others who might consider the use of prohibited substances. "Taking the Landis case into account, it is imperative that the managers, the team directors, the doctors or indeed those who pretend to be doctors are also punished," he said.
Phonak, meanwhile, announced that Landis will be "released because he has violated the team's ethical code. Of course, Landis can still appeal against the verdict, but that is his personal decision and has nothing to do with Phonak."
Despite Phonak's announcement, serious questions are sure to be asked of a team that has lurched from one doping scandal to another in recent seasons, including names such as Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Camenzind, Santiago Botero, Jos Enrique Gutierrez and Sascha Urweider. The team attempted to cleanse its reputation this season by bringing in John Lelangue as their manager, but high-profile cases have continued to crop up, with Landis's just the latest and most sensational of them.
As far as Landis is concerned, he is now certain to turn to legal avenues in an attempt to restore his shattered reputation. In a statement on his site, Landis maintained his innocence of any wrongdoing. "I have never taken a banned substance, not even testosterone. I was the strongest rider at the Tour and that's why I won. I will fight against these accusations with as much intensity as I put into training or racing. My goal is to clear my name and to regain what I have won by working so hard for."
His legal team affirmed they will be backing Landis's fight to clear his name, but initial prospects aren't good given the list of excuses they've reeled out in recent days to explain his positive test result. Dehydration, cortisone injections into his crumbling hip, too much Jack Daniel's and a long-standing testosterone imbalance have all been put forward as potential reasons for Landis's positive test. However, none of them explains how the testosterone found in the American's system apparently comes from an outside source.
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