Landis sample shows high and synthetic testosterone

Updated: August 6, 2006, 12:27 AM ET
Associated Press

PARIS -- Floyd Landis was fired by his team and the Tour de France no longer considered him its champion Saturday after his second doping sample tested positive for higher-than-allowable levels of testosterone.

The samples contained synthetic testosterone, indicating that it came from an outside source.

"I have received a text message from Chatenay-Malabry lab that indicates the 'B' sample of Floyd Landis' urine confirms testosterone was taken in an exogenous way," Pierre Bordry, who heads the French anti-doping council, told The Associated Press shortly after the "B" sample results were released.

Landis had claimed the testosterone was "natural and produced by my own organism," and once again maintained his innocence.

"I have never taken any banned substance, including testosterone," he said in a statement. "I was the strongest man at the Tour de France, and that is why I am the champion.

Landis Biography
Born: Oct. 14, 1975, in Farmersville, Lancaster County, Penn.
Pro wins: 10

• Born in a community of Mennonites, a branch of the Christian Anabaptist church, Landis bought his first mountain bike at 15 and won the first mountain bike race he entered.
• In 1995, he moved to California and became a full-time rider. Switched to road racing and joined Lance Armstrong's U.S. Postal team.
• Split with Armstrong in 2005 and joined the Swiss team Phonak.
• Won inaugural Tour of California in 2006 as well as Paris-Nice classic and Tour of Georgia.
• Battled back from nightmare 16th stage in the Alps to win Stage 17 and set up 2006 Tour de France triumph.
• Fired by Phonak team after "B" sample taken after Stage 17 confirms high testosterone ratio. Tour officials say they no longer recognize him as champion.

"I will fight these charges with the same determination and intensity that I bring to my training and racing. It is now my goal to clear my name and restore what I worked so hard to achieve."

The Swiss-based team Phonak immediately severed ties with Landis, and the UCI said it would ask USA Cycling to open disciplinary proceedings against him.

"Landis will be dismissed without notice for violating the team's internal Code of Ethics," Phonak said in a statement. "Landis will continue to have legal options to contest the findings. However, this will be his personal affair, and the Phonak team will no longer be involved in that."

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said Landis no longer was considered champion, but the decision to strip him of his title rests with the International Cycling Union.

"It goes without saying that for us Floyd Landis is no longer the winner of the 2006 Tour de France," Prudhomme told the AP in a telephone interview. "Our determination is even stronger now to fight against doping and to defend this magnificent sport."

Prudhomme said runner-up Oscar Pereiro of Spain would be the likely new winner.

"We can't imagine a different outcome," Prudhomme said.

If stripped of the title, Landis would become the first winner in the 103-year history of cycling's premier race to lose his Tour crown over doping allegations.

UCI lawyer Philippe Verbiest said Landis would officially remain Tour champion pending the U.S. disciplinary process, which involves a series of steps:

Documentation from the positive tests will be forwarded to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which gives the evidence to a review panel. The panel will make a recommendation to USADA, which would decide if a penalty -- likely a two-year ban -- is appropriate. That decision is forwarded to USA Cycling, the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency. Landis can accept the decision or begin an appeals process, which can take up to six months.

"Until he is found guilty or admits guilt, he will keep the yellow jersey," he said. "This is normal. You are not sanctioned before you are found guilty."

The results of the second test come nearly two weeks after he stood atop the winner's podium on the Champs-Elysees in the champion's yellow jersey.

Testosterone, a male sex hormone, helps build muscle and improve stamina. The urine tests were done July 20 after Landis' Stage 17 victory during a grueling Alpine leg, when he regained nearly eight minutes against then-leader Pereiro -- and went on to win the three-week race.

The tests turned up a testosterone/epitestosterone ratio of 11:1 -- far in excess of the 4:1 limit.

"It's incredibly disappointing," three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond said by phone from the starting line at the Pan Mass Challenge in Sturbridge, Mass. "I don't think he has much chance at all to try to prove his innocence."

The case is expected to go to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency; the process could take months, possibly with appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"It doesn't end here," said Landis' Spanish lawyer, Jose Maria Buxeda. "What matters is the concept. A prohibited substance has been found in the samples, but no immediate sanction comes into effect yet. The rider will defend himself."

Landis, a 30-year-old former mountain biker, says he was tested eight other times during the three-week tour and those results came back negative.

Landis has hired high-profile American lawyer Howard Jacobs, who has represented several athletes in doping cases.

Jacobs plans to go after the UCI for allegedly leaking information regarding the sample testing.

Earlier this week, a New York Times report cited a source from the UCI saying that a second analysis of Landis' "A" sample by carbon isotope ratio testing had detected synthetic testosterone -- meaning it was ingested.

Jacques De Ceaurriz, the head of the Chatenay-Malabray lab, said the isotope testing procedure involving a mass spectrometer is totally reliable.

"It's foolproof. This analysis tells the difference between endogenous and exogenous," he told the AP. "No error is possible in isotopic readings."

Landis spokesman Michael Henson disputed that.

"There is no conclusive evidence that shows that this test can show definitively the presence of exogenous testosterone," Henson said.

But World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound said the tests were scientifically valid.

"The overwhelming scientific consensus would hold these tests are reliable and what they found is what they found," he told the AP. "Had there been any scientific difficulties or technical difficulties we would have heard about it."

Pound said confirmation of the synthetic testosterone finding would undermine any Landis defense.

"It's probably a very good preemptive move to close down yet another avenue of complaint or argument," he said. "The science is pretty well accepted. The history of these tests are pretty well established."

Since the Phonak team was informed of the positive test on July 27, Landis and his defense team have offered various explanations for the high testosterone reading -- including cortisone shots taken for pain in Landis' degenerating hip; drinking beer and whiskey the night before; thyroid medication; and his natural metabolism.

Another theory -- dehydration -- was rebuffed by anti-doping experts.

"When I heard it was synthetic hormone, it is almost impossible to be caused by natural events. It's kind of a downer," said LeMond, the first American to win the Tour. "I feel for Floyd's family. I hope Floyd will come clean on it and help the sport. We need to figure out how to clean the sport up, and we need the help of Floyd."

In Murrieta, Calif., where Landis lives, an AP reporter was asked by police to leave the gated community when she attempted to approach his house. Several cars were parked in front, and the blinds were drawn.

A man who said he was a friend of the family, but didn't want his name used, answered the phone at the Landis' house and confirmed the cyclist was there.

"We're drinking some coffee, and that's about it," he said.

Despite the latest test results a sign at a nearby freeway exit said, "Welcome Home Floyd Landis, 2006 Tour de France Winner."

In Lancaster County, Pa., where Landis was raised in a conservative Mennonite home, neighbors vowed their support.

"All he has accomplished, he has attained through his hard work and discipline. We are very confident he will prove his innocence. It is very unfortunate that these tests were revealed before he had a chance to do so," said Tammy Martin, a longtime family friend.

Paul and Arlene Landis, who have supported their son since the doping scandal broke, were out of town on a previously scheduled vacation.

A note posted in their yard said, "God Bless, Went Camping."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press