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Remaining Landis Tour samples to face additional scrutiny

The arbitration panel scheduled to review the doping case of Floyd Landis has ruled that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency may retest Landis’s remaining B from last summer’s Tour de France for the presence of exogenous testosterone.

Landis allegedly tested positive for a skewed testosterone-epitestosterone ratio following his remarkable come-from-behind performance in the 17th stage of the 2006 Tour.

While the panel, in a 2-1 decision, voted to allow the testing of remaining B samples, it deferred a ruling on whether the resulting evidence could be admitted in Landis’s suspension hearing, now slated for May 14. Landis has maintained his innocence since news of the positive was released.

Landis learned of his positive test soon after winning the Tour on July 23. It is common practice to examine urine samples using a testosterone/epitestosterone ratio test. The average male produces both hormones at about the same levels, so a 1-to-1 ratio is the most common result of such a test. Under the World Anti-Doping Code, a sample is not considered positive unless the level of testosterone is four times higher than the level of epitestosterone.

Landis’s sample from stage 17 reportedly showed an 11-1 ratio, though there is some evidence that the result came not from an elevated testosterone level, but a depressed epitestosterone level. That, however, is not a defense, say doping officials, because the suppression of epitestosterone production may be the result of testosterone injections.

While an examination of the T/E ratio is what triggers an initial positive and is what is used to confirm the result on the B sample, testers then take that same sample and subject it to a carbon-isotope test to confirm the presence of testosterone from external sources. The follow-up test indicated the presence of exogenous testosterone.

In pursuing the doping charge against Landis, USADA asked that seven remaining B samples be tested using the carbon isotope test, to detect the presence of exogenous testosterone, despite the fact that the corresponding A samples had not triggered a positive using the T/E ratio test.

Landis and his legal team objected to the request and the issue was brought before the North American Arbitration Association panel scheduled to hear Landis’s case in May.

The three-member panel voted 2-1 in favor allowing the testing to proceed, but deferred a decision on whether to admit any resulting evidence. Attorney Christopher Campbell, a former Olympic wrestler and the one member of the panel nominated by Landis, voted to deny the request. Sources said that the testing could take place as early as this weekend.

Campbell was the lone dissent in the first phase of the Tyler Hamilton blood-doping case. Hamilton subsequently appealed his suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled 3-0 in favor of upholding the suspension.

Both sides retain the option of appealing the Landis case to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport if they disagree with the ruling from the May 14 hearing. It is likely, therefore, that final resolution of the case may not come until more than a year after the alleged infraction.

If Landis is ultimately stripped of his title he would be the first Tour de France champion to suffer that fate since the top four finishers of the 1904 Tour were disqualified for cheating.

The 2005 Vuelta a España title changed hands after Liberty Seguros’s Roberto Heras was found positive for EPO. Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is now listed as the official winner of that race. If Landis is ultimately disqualified, Caisse d’Epargne’s Oscar Pereiro will receive the yellow jersey.

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