By staff and wire reports
Tour de France champion Floyd Landis, who is fighting to keep his Tour de France title after a positive doping test, charged Thursday that U.S. anti-doping officials offered to go easy on him if he provided evidence incriminating seven-time champ Lance Armstrong.
Landis said that Travis Tygart, general counsel for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, approached his attorney, Howard Jacobs, with a deal shortly after learning of the American’s positive doping test during the 2006 Tour.
“That took place in the first conversation between USADA and my lawyer,” Landis said at a press conference in advance of his arbitration hearing on the doping charge, which begins Monday at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
“It was offered to me that if I give up something on Lance Armstrong to incriminate him, I would serve the lightest possible suspension.”
Landis, who tested positive for a skewed testosterone-epitestosterone ratio after his remarkable come-from-behind performance in the 17th stage of the 2006 Tour, said he thought the offer showed a cynicism that has affected the entire anti-doping process.
“I do find it to be offensive. And I think it goes to the character of the prosecution,” said Landis, adding that in any case he had no information to offer on the subject of doping and Armstrong, who like his countryman has vehemently denied accusations of doping.
USADA’s standard policy is not to comment on open cases. However, Tygart told VeloNews: “If Mr. Landis wishes to waive the rule and allow USADA to comment, I will be more than happy to address his nonsense.”
Landis and his advisers argue that the French laboratory which found a skewed testosterone-epitestosterone ratio in his sample given after stage 17 failed to follow proper procedures.
However, the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) on Friday said these allegations had been proven unfounded following an examination of the process by three independent experts.
“The three independent experts are in accordance with the results and that the laboratory (Chatenay-Malabry) worked in a very professional way,” AFLD president Pierre Bordry said.
Bordry said that they had passed on their findings to the USADA.
“Landis refused to provide the USADA with the report from these experts so I’ve decided to pass it on directly to the USADA,” he added.
Landis’s lawyers have called on Chatenay-Malabry director Jacques de Ceaurriz and six lab technicals to appear at his hearing in California.
That hearing, before a three-man panel of the American Arbitration Association, is expected to last 10 days. The hearings will begin at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. local time in the Darling Trial Courtroom at Pepperdine’s School of Law.
Both sides retain the option of appealing the case to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport if they disagree with the outcome.
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.