Tour de France champion declares innocence of doping

27th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

MADRID, July 28, 2006 (AFP) - America's Tour de France winner Floyd Landis, facing the loss of his title in a doping scandal, on Friday insisted again he was innocent.

MADRID, July 28, 2006 (AFP) - America's Tour de France winner Floyd Landis, facing the loss of his title in a doping scandal, on Friday insisted again he was innocent.

The 30-year-old rider said that his positive test for testosterone showed up levels which "are absolutely natural and produced by my own organism".

Landis said he was in Madrid to consult with his legal team and added he was willing to undergo whatever tests the sport's authorities asked of him to establish his innocence.

"Until such research has been carried out I ask not to be judged and much less to be sentenced by anyone," Landis told a news conference at a Madrid hotel.

"I'd like to make it absolutely clear that I'm not in any doping process," he added.

Landis is facing the sack from his team if the B sample confirms the first result.

Landis suggested earlier this week in an interview with US magazine Sports Illustrated that the abnormally high Testosterone/Epitestosteron ratio which showed up after his staggering solo breakaway win in race stage 17 could be due to a thyroid problem or possibly to have occurred naturally.

Landis has said he "can't be hopeful" regarding the B probe which is to be carried out at at the French laboratory of Chatenay-Malabry.

Landis, the third American to win the race, faces becoming the first  champion in the history of the Tour de France to be stripped of his title.

He insisted on Thursday he was not a drugs cheat.

"No, c'mon man," Landis told Sports Illustrated website when asked if he did it.

He said he "can't be hopeful" that the B sample would clear him.

"I'm a realist," he said. "I wouldn't hold it against somebody if they don't believe me."

The news that Landis had tested positive sent shockwaves through cycling, a sport which has fought a long battle to kick out the cheats and to clear its tarnished reputation.

Phonak team boss John Lelangue told AFP he still had faith in Landis but would be obliged to apply the team's ethics code.

"We are surprised by the result but we will apply the procedure of the ethics code that we have signed," he said.

"If the result from the B sample confirms the first result, there will be dismissal."

The Swiss-based team said in a statement that it was notified by the International Cycling Union (UCI) on Wednesday of "an unusual level of Testosterone/Epitestosteron ratio in the test made on Floyd Landis after stage 17 of the Tour de France."

The American will ask for a counter analysis in the coming days, it added.

"The team management and the rider were both totally surprised," said a team statement.

"The rider will ask in the upcoming days for the counter analysis (B sample) to prove either that this result has come from a natural process or that this is the result of a mistake."

The 30-year-old Landis will be sacked if the B sample also proves positive.

"In application of the ProTour Ethical Code, the rider will not race anymore until this problem is totally clear," the statement added.

"If the result of the B sample analysis confirms the result of the A sample, the rider will be dismissed."

Tour de France organisers said they were stunned by the news and a statement said: "If the B sample test confirms the first result, anger and sadness will dominate the feelings of all of those who had been filled with enthusiasm for the Tour de France of 2006."

The test was carried out on the evening of Landis's victory in the 17th stage of the Tour de France to Morzine when he managed to claim victory after a staggering 130km solo breakaway.

The 30-year-old regained the yellow jersey two days after winning in Morzine and won the race overall in Paris on July 23.

The news comes as mystery surrounded the whereabouts of the American champion after he withdrew from two races in the Netherlands and Denmark the day after UCI announced a rider on the Tour had failed a doping test.

The ANP Dutch news agency said Landis pulled out of a race in Chaam on Wednesday evening on medical advice but this reason for not appearing was not confirmed by race organisers.

Landis also pulled out of Thursday's Grand Prix Jyske Bank race, the Danish organisers said in a statement.

Landis did win the Stiphout criterium in the Netherlands on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, the UCI had said in a statement: "The adverse analytical finding received this morning relates to the first analysis, and will have to be confirmed either by a counter-analysis required by the rider, or by the fact that the rider renounces to that counter analysis.

"The World Anti-doping Code and the Anti-doping Rules of the UCI do not allow to make the name of the concerned rider public, as well as other information that may allow identification."

This year's Tour was rocked by a drugs scandal on the eve of the race which saw 13 riders, including pre-race favourites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, barred from taking part after they were implicated in a Spanish blood-doping ring.

It was the latest in a series of high-profile drugs controversies to tarnish cycling over the past decade, with the Tour de France being particularly hard hit.

The 1988 Tour de France champion Pedro Delgado was the last rider to test positive for a classic doping test but he was never punished because the substance, probenecide, found in his urine was not prohibited at the time though it was on the Olympic list of banned substances.

Apart from Ullrich, the 1997 champion currently under suspicion, the 1998 winner Marco Pantani of Italy was thrown out of the 1999 Tour of Italy the day before the final stage because of a high hematrocrite level in his blood.

Though seven-time winner Lance Armstrong has never officially failed a doping test, reports said that there was a positive result for blood-booster EPO during his 1999 victory. Armstrong has continually denied doping.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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