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'I am innocent,' Landis says after losing verdict

Cyclist loses arbitration ruling 2 to 1, is stripped of '06 Tour de France title

Updated: 7:05 p.m. ET Sept. 23, 2007

PARIS - The verdict said “guilty.”

Like so much else in the confusing, contentious Floyd Landis doping case, though, none of the answers are really that simple.

Landis lost his expensive and explosive case Thursday when two of three arbitrators upheld the results of a test that showed the 2006 Tour de France champion used synthetic testosterone to fuel his spectacular comeback victory.

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The decision means Landis, who repeatedly has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, must forfeit his Tour title and is subject to a two-year ban, retroactive to Jan. 30, 2007.

Not that it changes his opinion of who the rightful winner was.

“I am innocent,” he said, “and we proved I am innocent.”

The majority of the panel disagreed.

According to documents obtained by The Associated Press, lead arbitrator Patrice Brunet and Richard McLaren voted to uphold the positive test with Christopher Campbell dissenting.

In its 84-page decision, the majority found the initial screening test to measure Landis’ testosterone levels — the testosterone-to-epitestosterone test — was not done according to World Anti-Doping Agency rules.

But the more precise and expensive carbon-isotope ratio analysis (IRMS), performed after a positive T-E test is recorded, was accurate, the arbitrators said, meaning “an anti-doping rule violation is established.”

“As has been held in several cases, even where the T-E ratio has been held to be unreliable ... the IRMS analysis may still be applied,” the majority wrote. “It has also been held that the IRMS analysis may stand alone as the basis” of a positive test.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for all clean athletes and everyone who values fair and honest competition,” U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said.

Now, Landis is left with one final way to possibly salvage his title — an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

If Landis doesn’t appeal — or appeals and loses — he’ll be the first person in the 105-year history of the race to lose the title because of a doping offense.

Given the vigor with which he pursued the case, and the more than $2 million he raised to do it, this goes down as a devastating loss for the 31-year-old cyclist from Murietta, Calif.

He has steadfastly insisted that cheating goes against everything he stands for. He said he was merely a pawn in the anti-doping system’s all-consuming effort to find cheaters and keep money flowing to its labs and agencies.

Slide show
floyd landis
2006 Tour de France
Landis finishes first in race that had heroics, crashes and a drug scandal that rocked the race even before it began.
“This ruling is a blow to athletes and cyclists everywhere,” Landis said. “For the Panel to find in favor of USADA when, with respect to so many issues, USADA did not manage to prove even the most basic parts of their case shows that this system is fundamentally flawed.”

“I have to assess whether a system that corrupt is worth subjecting myself to again,” Landis told ESPN.com. “I don’t have any reason to believe that CAS is any more sincere.

“Money is a large part of it. I have to consider my family when I consider risking everything I have left. It might be like putting all my money in a slot machine.

“The only way this could have come out any differently is if one of the arbitrators was drunk and checked the wrong box,” he said. “There’s something going on here other than trying to figure out the science.”

He is still weighing his legal options, according to a statement released by his legal team.

“This is a miscarriage of justice,” said Maurice Suh, the lead attorney for Landis.

“He is at the mercy of people much bigger than him,” said Landis’ mother, Arlene, speaking to WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pa.

The decision comes more than a year after Landis’ stunning comeback in Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour, one that many people said couldn’t be done without some kind of outside help.

Pat McQuaid, leader of cycling’s ruling body, said rules dictate that Landis can be stripped of his Tour de France title immediately. That makes Oscar Pereiro, who finished second last year, the official winner.

“It’s not a great surprise considering how events have evolved,” McQuaid said. “He got a highly qualified legal team who tried to baffle everybody with science and public relations. And in the end, the facts stood up.”

Landis insisted on a public hearing not only to prove his innocence, but to provide an unflinching look at USADA and the rules it enforces, and also establish a pattern of incompetence at the French lab where his urine was tested.

Although the panel rejected Landis’ argument of a “conspiracy” at the Chatenay-Malabry lab, it did find areas of concern. They dealt with chain of command in controlling the urine sample, the way the tests were run on the machine, the way the machine was prepared and the “forensic corrections” done on the lab paperwork.

“... the Panel finds that the practises of the Lab in training its employees appears to lack the vigor the Panel would expect in the circumstances given the enormous consequences to athletes” of an adverse analytical finding, the decision said.

The majority repeatedly wrote that any mistakes made at the lab were not enough to dismiss the positive test, but also sent a warning.

“If such practises continue, it may well be that in the future, an error like this could result in the dismissal” of a positive finding by the lab.

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