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2006 Tour de France
2006 Tour de France

Landis tests positive

Phonak: Tour winner had high levels of testosterone

Posted: Thursday July 27, 2006 10:16AM; Updated: Thursday July 27, 2006 11:09PM
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PARIS (AP) -- The amazing ride of Floyd Landis took a troubling detour Thursday.

A positive doping test has cast doubt on one of the most stirring Tour de France comeback wins in history. Even if it turns out he's innocent, the American cyclist expects the disgrace will linger a long, long time.

"I think there's a good possibility I'll clear my name," Landis said Thursday. "Regardless of whether this happens or not, I don't know if this will ever go away."

Landis denied cheating and said he has no idea what may have caused his positive test for high testosterone following the Tour's 17th stage, where he made his comeback charge last week. But he aims to find out.

"All I'm asking for," he said Thursday via teleconference, "is that I be given a chance to prove I'm innocent. Cycling has a traditional way of trying people in the court of public opinion before they get a chance to do anything else."

Now the cycling world will wait for results from a backup sample which, if negative, will clear Landis. If ultimately proven guilty, Landis could be stripped of the Tour title and fired from the team.

The Switzerland-based Phonak team will ask that the backup sample be tested in the next few days, manager John Lelangue said. The team suspended Landis after the International Cycling Union notified it Wednesday that he had an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone" when his test was taken last Thursday, the day he staked his comeback in the Alps.

"My immediate reaction was to look for the alcohol bottle," joked Landis, who's known to enjoy a beer on the Tour and said he drank whiskey with teammates to bury their sorrows after Landis nearly fell out of contention the day before his stage 17 charge.

Landis wrapped up the Tour win Sunday, keeping the title in U.S. hands for the eighth straight year. Lance Armstrong, who won the previous seven, was himself dogged for years by doping allegations that he vehemently denied -- and were never proven by a positive test.

Armstrong was riding in RAGBRAI, an annual bike ride across Iowa that attracts thousands of riders. After finishing his ride Thursday, he said would wait to see what happened when his former U.S. Postal Service teammate got the results from his second sample.

"Until that happens I don't have anything to say," Armstrong said.

Second-place finisher Oscar Pereiro, who would become champion if Landis is not cleared, said he was in no mood to celebrate.

"Should I win the Tour now it would feel like an academic victory," Pereiro told the AP at his home in Vigo, Spain. "The way to celebrate a win is in Paris, otherwise it's just a bureaucratic win."

Asked repeatedly what might have tripped his test, Landis refused to lay blame on any one thing. "As to what actually caused it on that particular day, I can only speculate," he said.

Landis had an exemption from the Tour to take cortisone shots for pain in his hip, which will require surgery for a degenerative condition, and was taking an oral medication for hyperthyroidism. He and his doctor were consulting with experts to see if those drugs might have thrown off his testosterone levels.

Landis said he was still in Europe, but declined to say exactly where. "Not to be elusive, I have to figure out a way to get to the airport and get home."

Arlene Landis said her son called Thursday from Europe and told her he had not done anything wrong.

"Lance [Armstrong] went through this too," she said in an interview with The Associated Press at her home in Farmersville, Pa. "Somebody doesn't want him to win.

"Why do they put you through two weeks of misery and spoil your crown? My opinion is when he comes on top of this everyone will think so much more of him. So that's what valleys are for, right?"

USA Cycling spokesman Andy Lee said that organization could not comment until the process is complete. Carla O'Connell, publications and communications director for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, also had no comment.

UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani said Landis requested the "B" sample, which is not required by cycling's governing body.

"We are confident in the first [test]," Carpani said. "For us, the first one is already good."

Tour director Christian Prudhomme stressed that the backup test still must be done, and it would be up to the UCI to determine penalties. It is obviously distressing," he said at a Paris news conference.

Under World Anti-Doping Agency regulations, a ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone greater than 4:1 is considered a positive result and subject to investigation. The threshold was recently lowered from 6:1. The most likely natural ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in humans is 1:1.

Testosterone is included as an anabolic steroid on WADA's list of banned substances, and its use can be punished by a two-year ban.

Testosterone can build muscle and improve recovery time when used over a period of several weeks, said Dr. Gary Wadler, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency and a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine. But if Landis had been a user, his earlier urine tests during the tour would have been affected, he said.

"So something's missing here," Wadler said. "It just doesn't add up."

Landis' inspiring Tour ride reminded many of fellow American Tyler Hamilton's gutsy 2003 ride. Hamilton, riding for team CSC, broke his collarbone on the first day of the Tour but rode on, despite the pain, and finished fourth overall.

But a year later, Hamilton, then riding for Phonak, tested positive for blood doping at a Spanish race and now is serving a two-year ban. He has denied blood doping.

Speculation that Landis had tested positive spread earlier Thursday after he failed to show up for a one-day race in Denmark on Thursday. A day earlier, he missed a scheduled event in the Netherlands.

On the eve of the Tour's start, nine riders -- including pre-race favorites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso -- were ousted, implicated in a Spanish doping investigation.

The names of Ullrich and Basso turned up on a list of 56 cyclists who allegedly had contact with Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, who's at the center of the Spanish doping probe. Landis was not implicated in that investigation.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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