Media in France quiet on day after 'B' sample result

Updated: August 6, 2006, 3:42 PM ET
Associated Press

PARIS -- The reaction of the French press to the news Floyd Landis could be stripped of his Tour de France title was muted, especially when compared to the attention the country's media gave to Lance Armstrong.

L'Equipe, the biggest and most respected sports newspaper in the country, had a reference to the Landis story on its front page Sunday, with a headline proclaiming "Landis, yellow jersey dethroned." The full story of the American cyclist's positive "B" sample, which confirmed his high level of testosterone, was on page 12 with the headline, "Landis will lose his Tour."

Instead of a picture of Landis on the front page, L'Equipe showed little-known soccer player Fabrice Fiorese, who scored twice in Lorient's 3-2 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the opening weekend of the French league.

Le Journal du Dimanche preferred to concentrate on soccer player Frank Ribery's possible transfer from Marseille to Lyon or Arsenal.

That's a far cry from the coverage most French newspapers gave to seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong.

The Texan was generally disliked by the French press, and L'Equipe published a story nearly a year ago with the headline "The Armstrong Lie" saying that Armstrong had used the performance-enhancing drug EPO during the 1999 Tour.

That was accompanied by a scathing editorial criticizing Armstrong by Tour race director Jean-Maire Leblanc and French sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour.

Armstrong has always denied doping and has never tested positive for a banned substance.

While Armstrong was the bigger name and personality, Landis is the one that stands to be the first man in the 103-year history of cycling's premier cycling event to be stripped of the title.

Landis maintains that he produces naturally high levels of testosterone, but Pierre Bordry, who heads the French anti-doping council, said the Chatenay-Malabry lab near Paris found that testosterone in the rider's urine samples came from an outside source.

That would mean doping.

Still, L'Equipe was mild in its editorial about Landis, rehashing some of the facts that followed Saturday's verdict -- such as Phonak firing Landis on the spot -- and drawing comparisons between Landis and U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin, who also tested positive for testosterone.

The editorial steered clear of directly targeting Landis, saying only that "cheating comes at a high price."

Opposite the main story about Landis, L'Equipe showed a photo of Oscar Pereiro wearing the yellow jersey and raising his arm in triumph.

The Spaniard finished second in this year's Tour and could be proclaimed champion if Landis is officially stripped of his title.

Landis still maintains he did not cheat, despite mounting evidence against him.

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

The International Cycling Union said it would ask USA Cycling to open disciplinary proceedings.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency will ultimately decide if a penalty -- likely a two-year ban -- is appropriate. Landis can accept the decision or begin an appeals process, which can take up to six months and involve the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"I will fight these charges with the same determination and intensity that I bring to my training and racing," Landis said.

"It is now my goal to clear my name and restore what I worked so hard to achieve."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press