Landis denies allegations of hacking

Updated: February 16, 2010, 1:54 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

PARIS -- A French judge has issued a national arrest warrant for U.S. cyclist Floyd Landis in connection with a case of data hacking at a doping laboratory, a prosecutor's office said.

Spoke In A Larger Wheel?

The Floyd Landis case is actually part of a much larger corporate cyber-crime investigation involving a Paris-based consulting group that may have paid intermediaries to breach various companies' security. The French judge summoned Landis and Arnie Baker, a retired doctor and longtime coach and adviser for Landis, to court for questioning last May but neither appeared.

A French computer expert, Alain Quiros, last year confessed that he was hired to hack into the anti-doping lab's system. However, investigators told the French media that one of the fraudulent e-mails sent from the lab's computers had been traced back to an Internet address belonging to Baker.

Both Baker and Landis have denied any involvement in the hacking incident.

Landis returned from his suspension a year ago at the Tour of California. He raced exclusively in North America last season with the OUCH-Maxxis team, sponsored by a Southern California medical sports medicine practice that includes his personal physician, but showed nothing near the form he displayed as one of the top cyclists in the world from 2002-06.

At the end of the 2009 season, Landis announced he would end his relationship with the OUCH team (now under new sponsorship) and seek to sign a contract with a team that did more racing in Europe. Landis has raced in two minor events this season wearing the colors of Rock Racing, a U.S.-based team whose license to race in Europe is in limbo, but does not have a formal contract with Rock Racing, according to two sources who asked for anonymity. In the recent Valley of the Sun stage race in Arizona, Landis was listed as unaffiliated.

French anti-doping authorities agreed to drop any separate proceedings against Landis when his case, prosecuted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency under American Arbitration Association rules, proceeded in the United States. There is no rule preventing Landis from racing again in France at this point, since he has served his suspension, but the recently issued warrant clearly would be a disincentive to his competing there.

Even if Landis had notched better results since his comeback, teams on the elite Pro Tour level would be reluctant to sign him because of the implications that might have for their invitations to major races, including the Tour de France, where organizers have discretion in who they include.

-- Bonnie D. Ford, ESPN.com

Judge Thomas Cassuto, based in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, is seeking to question Landis about computer hacking dating back to September 2006 at the Chatenay-Malabry lab, said Astrid Granoux, spokeswoman for Nanterre's prosecutor's office. The laboratory had uncovered abnormally elevated testosterone levels in Landis' samples collected in the run-up to his 2006 Tour de France victory, leading to the eventual loss of his medal.

Cassuto also issued a national warrant for Arnie Baker, a retired doctor and longtime Landis coach and adviser, the prosecutor's office said.

Landis denied the hacking allegations in an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times on Monday and said no warrant has been served against him. He said he wasn't sure whether Baker had received a warrant.

"I can't speak for Arnie, but no attempt has been made to formally contact me," Landis said in the e-mail. "It appears to be another case of fabricated evidence by a French lab who is still upset a United States citizen believed he should have the right to face his accusers and defend himself."

Earlier Monday, France's anti-doping chief Pierre Bordry had mistakenly described the arrest warrant as international. Granoux stressed that the warrant is applicable only on French soil. It is possible in such cases to issue an international warrant at a later date if needed.

Landis challenged the drug test results before an arbitration hearing in California, claiming that computer files were mishandled and erased. But he was stripped of his Tour de France title and banned for two years when doping tests revealed the presence of synthetic testosterone in his urine samples. He returned at the Tour of California last February.

"Landis used the hacked files for his defense, that's how we discovered the whole scheme," Bordry said. "He wanted to show that the lab made mistakes in the handling of the tests."

Cassuto issued the warrant Jan. 28 because Landis did not respond to a summons in November, Bordry said.

"Apparently the judge traced the case back to the beginning," Bordry said. "I can't say I'm happy with this news because I would have preferred there was no Landis case."

Cassuto also issued a national warrant for Arnie Baker, a retired doctor and longtime coach and adviser for Landis, the prosecutor's office said.

After discovering the hacking, the French lab upgraded security to protect its computer systems.

Landis' urine samples were tested at the lab and found to contain elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone levels, less than a week after he won the Tour de France.

On July 20, 2006, the Tour's 17th stage, Landis started more than eight minutes behind leader Oscar Pereiro after losing the yellow jersey to the Spaniard the previous day. But Landis produced an amazing ride during the mountainous stage to cut Pereiro's lead to 30 seconds before taking the title.

Landis' samples taken after that stage revealed a testosterone-epitestosterone ratio of 11-1 -- nearly three times the 4-1 limit.

The Chatenay-Malabry lab is accredited by the International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency. It helped develop tests for the endurance-enhancing drug EPO.

Landis recently competed in a minor race in New Zealand.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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