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
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
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
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."