Landis calls his testosterone imbalance natural

Updated: July 30, 2006, 1:27 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MADRID, Spain -- Sounding more defiant than the day before, eyes flashing and voice steady, Floyd Landis looked into the cameras Friday and said he would prove he "deserved to win" the Tour de France.

Floyd Landis
Denis Doyle, Getty Images"I declare convincingly and categorically that my winning the Tour de France has been exclusively due to many years of training and my complete devotion to cycling," Landis said.

In his first public appearance since a urine test showing a testosterone imbalance cast his title into doubt, the American said his body's natural metabolism -- not doping of any kind -- caused the result, and that he would soon have the test results to prove it.

"We will explain to the world why this is not a doping case but a natural occurrence," Landis said from the Spanish capital.

The day before, in a teleconference from a location in Europe he did not disclose, Landis said he didn't cheat, but had no idea what might have caused the result on the Tour's 17th stage, where he staked his stirring comeback in the Alps.

During that Thursday call, Landis sounded downcast and heartbroken, saying he expected to clear his name but never his reputation. His demeanor was decidedly more fiery Friday, when he sat before a buzzing news conference and lashed out at the media for characterizing his plight as a drug scandal.

"I would like to make absolutely clear that I am not in any doping process," said Landis, wearing a baseball cap turned backward and a white shirt with the name of his Phonak team.

Landis is still awaiting results from a backup sample, which would clear him immediately if found to be negative. But his lawyer, Luis Sanz, said he fully expected the backup test to come back with the same result, because the testosterone imbalance was produced naturally by Landis's body.

A doctor's take
Will further testing show that Floyd Landis' testosterone imbalance is natural?

This month sprinter Justin Gatlin failed the carbon-isotrope test that shows whether testosterone in the body is natural or unnatural. Dr. Don Catlin, who runs a famed UCLA doping center that has developed testing protocols, thinks that test was probably already performed on Landis' sample.

"If you have a high t/e ratio in our lab, we do a carbon-isotope ratio right away," Catlin told the San Diego Union-Tribune for Saturday's edition. "We don't report a high t/e ratio without a carbon-isotope test."

The Paris lab that tested for the Tour is accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which calls for a carbon-isotope test if a urine test reveals an elevated t/e ratio.

"They are a WADA-accredited lab and they follow WADA protocol," Catlin told the Union-Tribune. "I think it's a very safe assumption -- very safe. Why would they risk not doing that? I mean, good grief, you'd think they are going to have all their ducks in order for a case like this."

And the 30-year-old cyclist said Friday that he would undergo additional testing to prove that "the levels that I've had during the Tour and all my career are natural and produced by my own organism."

Until those tests are conducted, Landis said, "I ask not to be judged, or much less to be sentenced by anyone."

But Landis saved his most aggressive tone for the defense of his title as Tour de France champion.

"I was the strongest guy. I deserved to win, and I'm proud of it," he said.

In an interview Friday for ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong said he wasn't going to pass judgment on Landis.

"I don't want to pass judgment until we have confirmation on the 'A' sample," Armstrong said. "I'm not going to speculate; you can get Greg LeMond to go on the air and speculate. I'm not going to do that. ... I'm not going south like Greg does. I believe in the sport, I'm a fan of it and I love it.

"I've lived that life, I know what it's like to be accused of things," Armstrong added. "My suggestion to Floyd would be if you're innocent, you believe you're innocent, then you stand up and fight for it. That's what I did for the better part of 10 years. But you have to fight back, answer the questions, you have to be very specific, you have to be very aggressive. If that makes talking to the press, suing someone ... you have to do it."

If ultimately proven guilty, Landis could be stripped of the Tour title and fired from the team. Switzerland-based Phonak said it would ask that the backup sample be tested in the next few days.

"We will request the 'B' sample immediately, and I will have a representative there," Landis said. He said the result would be made public as soon as it was known.

Landis appeared to lose any chance of victory during a disastrous 16th stage of the Tour, then broke out with one of the greatest performances in history the next day. After winning the 17th stage, he submitted to a drug test -- standard for a stage winner -- that showed an "unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone."

"He does not have a high level of testosterone. That's not been documented. He has a high ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in his urine," Landis' personal physician, Dr. Brent Kay, said Friday night on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"Which could be due to an elevated testosterone level. It could be due to a low epitestosterone level. And it could be due to a variety of other factors with handling and specimen contamination and various other things."

Kay, speaking from Los Angeles, also said that using testosterone would hurt rather than help a cyclist.

"I would like to make absolutely clear that I am not in any doping process. I ask not to be judged by anyone, much less sentenced by anyone."
Floyd Landis

"I think everybody needs to take a step back and look at what we're talking about. Because testosterone is a bodybuilding steroid that builds mass," Kay said. "It builds mass over long-term use of weeks, months, and even years.

"And it's crazy to think that a Tour de France professional cyclist would be using testosterone, particularly in the middle of a race. It's a joke. Every sports medicine expert, physician, trainer, scientist that I've talked to in the last day, have really the same opinion, 'No way. This is a joke.'"

Phonak suspended Landis after the International Cycling Union notified it Wednesday of the result.

Landis, a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, said he was shocked when told of the initial positive result. He said he had been tested six other times during the tour, and many other times during the year.

A homecoming parade planned for Landis next week in Ephrata, Pa., has been put on hold pending more test results, organizer Rich Ruoff said Friday. As many as 10,000 people and 500 cyclists were expected at the event.

The news of Landis' test has rocked the cycling world, already under a cloud following a wide-ranging doping investigation in Spain that led to the barring of several of the world's leading cyclists from the Tour.

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. Their names turned up on a list of 56 cyclists who allegedly had contact with a Spanish doctor at the center of the probe. Landis was not implicated in that investigation.

Armstrong said all he knew about Landis' case was what has been reported.

"But I will say this," Armstrong told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday. "When Floyd was with us, there was never a problem. We never saw anything even remotely off, never had a reason to suspect anything. He left our team for a better offer. There was no suspicious behavior, none. It's that simple.

"Secondly, I can't help but be aware the lab that found this suspicious reading is the same one that was at the center of the 'L'Equipe affair."

The French newspaper, L'Equipe, said samples taken from Armstrong during the 1999 Tour de France and then frozen tested positive for the blood-booster EPO. The International Cycling Union commissioned a report that later cleared Armstrong of the doping allegations.

"When an independent investigator contacted the lab, they wouldn't answer the simplest of questions, wouldn't go into their testing ethics, who did the tests, etc., etc.," Armstrong said. "I don't personally have a ton of faith in that lab. I think they should lose their authorization and the report pretty much supports that."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.