In an unusual step, Tour de France winner Floyd Landis has been summoned to appear before the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) on February 8, the organization’s president Pierre Bordry told AFP on Friday.The 32-year-old American won the Tour de France last July, due in no small part to a remarkable effort on the 17th stage of the race.
Landis, however, later tested positive for testosterone after that stage and he has been fighting to clear his name. Bordy said that Landis would most likely be represented at the hearing in Paris by U.S. attorney Howard Jacobs.
The AFLD has no power to suspend Landis, but it does have the authorityto prevent him from participating in events on French soil, including the world’s biggest bicycle race. Only USA Cycling and the UCI have the authority to ban Landis from the sport. USA Cycling has handed off its power to adjudicate doping cases to the U.S. Anti-doping Agency.
If USADA determines that Landis is guilty of an infraction, the UCI would then automatically strip him of the Tour title. Landis then has the option to appeal the case to a three-member panel organized under the auspices of the North American Arbitration Association.
No matter what the outcome of that process, the losing side has the option of appealing the case to the sporting world’s highest authority, the International Court of Arbitration for Sport. Landis has built his defense around what he says are inconsistencies by the French laboratory which analyzed his samples and led to his positive result.
Landis has pointed to the recent case of Iñigo Landaluze, who was acquitted of doping charges after a CAS panel determined that there were flaws in testing procedures carried out by the internationally-accredited French laboratory at Châtenay-Malabry.
Like Landis, Landaluze had tested positive for testosterone. He also challenged laboratory procedures, noting that his B sample was tested by the same person who analyzed his A sample, a violation of procedures outlined in the world anti-doping code. In its decision, CAS noted that Landaluze case should not be considered an indictment of the process or the lab, but simply a mistake that resulted from the lab’s heavy workload.
Jacobs and other Landis defenders have pointed to a labeling error that they say should result in the same outcome. The French agency head, however, said Friday that the labeling error was noticed and corrected in time to prevent confusion. Bordry also insisted that the Landis case differs from the Landaluze case “in one very significant way. The test on the B sample took place in the presence of three experts including one approved by Floyd Landis.”
The AFLD move is unusual in that most national anti-doping agencies defer to the international process and do not normally make localized decisions affecting riders from other countries. The AFLD case could further hamper any hopes that Landis might have of returning to the 2007 Tour, even if he were to be cleared by USADA this spring.
While a rider cleared by his national federation could reasonably assert that he has the right to compete anywhere, he would still have to take the case to CAS in order to overturn any decision by the AFLD.