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Landis takes stand, says cheating 'wouldn't serve any purpose for me'

5/20/2007

MALIBU, Calif. -- Though he's convinced his reputation is
ruined, Floyd Landis still had to give it his best shot.

He took to the witness stand at his arbitration hearing Saturday
for his much-awaited testimony and found 50 different ways to say
he didn't cheat.

"It's a matter of who I am," last year's Tour de France
champion said. "It wouldn't serve any purpose for me to cheat and
win the Tour, because I wouldn't be proud of it. That wasn't the
goal to begin with."

It's a matter of who I am. It wouldn't serve any purpose for me to cheat and
win the Tour, because I wouldn't be proud of it. That wasn't the
goal to begin with.

Floyd Landis, on the stand.

Wearing that familiar yellow tie, a gray suit and blue shirt,
Landis spoke clearly and kept on point during a 75-minute
dissection of his career, which was thrown wildly off track when he
tested positive after Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour.

It was a well-calibrated presentation, and on-point, and he
hopes it will establish his innocence and keep his victory intact.
But he conceded that maybe the real damage already has been done -- a
reputation ruined for good.

"It will be forever connected to me," he said. "I can't
imagine how that would change."

Landis outlined the strategy he used for his riveting comeback
in Stage 17 of last year's Tour -- a plan he said had nothing to do
with the synthetic testosterone he's accused of using, but one that
was hatched over dinner and whiskey the night before.

"It helps with the tactical plan," Landis said, drawing
laughs.

Speaking under oath, he said the only banned substance he has
taken during his career has been cortisone -- medicine he used to
treat his injured hip, which had been approved for his use by
cycling authorities.

He also spoke about allegations that Greg LeMond made two days
earlier, acknowledging he was in the room when his former manager,
Will Geoghegan, made the call to LeMond threatening to reveal the
three-time Tour champion's secret that he had been sexually abused
as a child.

"I knew there was a problem," Landis said of his reaction upon
realizing Geoghegan had made the call. "I was traumatized having
him tell me that story in the first place. There are very few
things I can imagine would happen to a person that are worse than
that. To make light of that, I can't even put words to it."

Although Landis corroborated most of what LeMond testified to
Thursday during his blockbuster day on the stand, there was one key
difference.

"I told him that I didn't do it," Landis said, refuting
LeMond's assertion of the opposite. "I told him it wouldn't make
any sense for me to admit to something I didn't do. But if I did
admit it and I didn't do it, what would the positive outcome of it
be?"

Landis spoke in a conversational, matter-of-fact tone, never
raising his voice or breaking down. He talked about his
sometimes-strained relationship with seven-time Tour champion Lance
Armstrong and the reason he left Armstrong's team -- so he would
have a chance to be "the man."

Landis' parents and wife, Amber, watched from behind the defense
table -- his mom smiling ever so slightly and Amber fiddling with
her watch.
Afterward, his mother, Arlene Landis, said her son's claims of
innocence were exactly what she expected to hear. His parents are
devout Mennonites, and Landis talked about his religious upbringing
at the start of the testimony.

"He's worked for every cent he earned," Arlene Landis said.
"When you're a Christian, it's not a weight. God doesn't put us
through situations like this unless he has something he can teach
us. I have no idea what they will decide. I just know in my
heart."

The hearing room was rapt, finally getting a chance to hear
Landis speak about the allegations he has denied since news of his
positive "A" sample was leaked 10 months ago.

At the end, attorney Howard Jacobs asked him why the three
arbitrators who will decide his fate -- whether he becomes the first
Tour winner stripped of the title for a doping offense -- should
believe him.

"They should believe me because people are defined by their
principles and how they make their decisions," Landis said. "To
me, bicycle racing was rewarding for the pure fact that I was proud
of myself when I put the work into it. As long as I know I earned
what I got, that was satisfactory. Obviously, it's fun to win. It's
a matter of who I am."

He described being massively confused when word of the positive
test first came out last summer, which led to a debacle of a news
conference in Spain.

At that appearance, he explained his positive test came not
because of testosterone use but was, rather, something that was
produced "by my own organisms."

"I still don't know what that means," Landis testified. "I
regret it. It was confusing at that point. I shouldn't have taken
the advice of those lawyers. I didn't know what I was doing. As you
can see, those guys aren't here today writing statements."

When it was over, Landis hurried outside and before stepping
into his van, he said "Almost done."

Well, not quite.

He'll return Monday for a cross-examination that should be quite
different in tone from the friendly storytelling kind of day he had
under questioning from his own attorneys.

This was easily the best day of the six for Landis, and earlier
unfriendly testimony from Don Catlin, the former director of the
Olympic testing lab at UCLA, seemed long forgotten.

Asked his opinion on whether Landis doped at last year's Tour,
Catlin said, simply: "There's no question about it. My opinion is
doping is going on."

Landis squirmed through parts of Catlin's testimony, the latest
chapter in a difficult week of listening to people talk about him
and his case. He looked much more comfortable when he finally got
to tell the story himself.