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By Andrew Hood
Floyd Landis is poised to make the wrong kind of history if his counter-analysis comes back positive: he could become the first Tour de France winner to lose his crown for a doping violation.
On Thursday, Landis vehemently denied allegations he doped en route to winning the wild 2006 Tour, but if results of his “B” sample confirm initial tests that revealed “unusual” testosterone levels in his urine, Landis could lose his Tour victory.
“All I want to do is ask that everybody take a step back,” Landis said. “All I’m asking for is just that I be given a chance to prove that I’m innocent. Cycling has a traditional way of trying people in the court of public opinion before they ever get a chance to do anything else. I can’t stop that. But I would like to be assumed innocent until proven guilty, since that’s the way we do things in America.”
The counter-analysis is expected within the next several days. Landis wouldn’t reveal his location in Europe, but he has the right to witness the test at the Châtenay-Malabry labs near Paris.
If the second test comes back positive, Landis could be stripped of his Tour crown, face an outright two-year racing ban and another two-year ban before a return to a ProTour team.
If the “B” test is positive, Landis will likely undergo endocrine tests to determine his naturally occurring testosterone levels and then could challenge the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The basis of the urine test is the T/E ratio, a balance between testosterone and epitestosterone in the body. Most adults have a range between 1:1 to 2:1, but the UCI has set the threshold at 4:1 to allow for riders with naturally occurring his testosterone levels.
The T/E ratio can vary widely within individuals, and in some cases the T/E ratio may be above the 4:1 ratio without doping while others can stay below the threshold despite cheating. The ratio tends to be constant over time, but wild swings may indicate doping. Other factors can cause swings in the ratio, such as dehydration, fatigue and even alcohol.
Anything above that threshold sends a red flag for doping controls. Landis would not reveal what his T/E ratio was in the samples taken after stage 17 into Morzine, when he went on an all-day solo attack to crawl his way back into overall contention.
The T/E ratio is not a sure-fire way to measure testosterone in the body, but it’s the only detection method currently used under anti-doping controls.
Other riders have been caught up in the T/E ratio web and some have been cleared after proving with endocrine testing they have naturally high occurring testosterone levels.
Most famously was ex-Phonak teammate Santiago Botero, who tested for high levels in 1999 but was eventually cleared. Botero, incidentally, is implicated in the “Operación Puerto” doping investigation in Spain and was not allowed by his team to start the 2006 Tour.
Last year’s Dauphiné Libéré winner Iñigo Landaluze also tested high for testosterone. Subsequently, the Spanish federation ruled that he had normally high levels of testosterone and cleared him to race, a decision the UCI is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).Earlier this season, another Phonak rider, Sascha Urweider, was suspended from the team for revealing high levels of testosterone.
If Landis is stripped of his title, everyone below him would bounce up one spot, with Oscar Pereiro being crowned as Tour winner. Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile) would move to second and Carlos Sastre (CSC) would slip up from fourth to a podium spot.
The disqualification would be a first doping-related in Tour history (the top four finishers of the scandal plagued 1904 Tour were disqualified for cheating), but not a precedent in cycling. Last year, Vuelta a España winner Roberto Heras was stripped of his title after testing positive for EPO and Russian Denis Menchov was later bounced up to official victor.
To listen to the audio of Floyd Landis’s Thursday press conference click here to download the MP3
To listen to the audio of Floyd Landis’s Friday afternoon press conference click here to download the MP3
Spain ready to take title
While second-place rider Oscar Pereiro has already publicly said he’d prefer to stay second place, the Spanish media seems to be ready to take profit of Landis’ potential downfall.
Headlines across Spain were ready to proclaim Pereiro the winner of the 2006 Tour. “It Could Be His,” wrote AS. The Spanish sports daily MARCA was ready to crown Pereiro as the fourth Spanish rider to win the Tour, following Bahamontes, Delgado and Indurain. El Pais – the paper which helped blow the lid open on the “Operación Puerto” investigation – called the Landis scandal, “A Big Blow to Cycling.”
Landis cancels Tonight Show plans
Los Angeles (AP) — Floyd Landis was set to make a triumphant post-Tour de France appearance on the “Tonight Show.” Instead, the cyclist may end up as comedy fodder for host Jay Leno.
Landis, whose victory was put in doubt after his team said he tested positive for high testosterone levels, won’t appear on the NBC talk show Friday as planned, a network spokeswoman said Thursday.
The show was informed by a representative for Landis that he was still in Europe and unavailable, the spokeswoman said. “Tonight” remains interested in having him on, she added.
NBC announced Wednesday that Landis’ first talk-show appearance since winning the race Sunday would be with Leno on “Tonight” – then came the announcement Thursday from his Phonak team that he had been suspended pending results of a backup sample of his drug test.
Pound lays into cycling … again
The Landis controversy gave WADA chief Dick Pound another chance to lay into cycling, who criticized the sport’s dirty image and record with doping controls.
“When is this going to end? What is the UCI going to do about it?” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s always disappointing when you see something like this. If there is a positive test, what have you got? The guys who came second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth at last year’s event have been busted in the (Spanish investigation), and now the winner of this year’s event is busted in the race itself. … You build up and create a new hero, and he gets slapped down. It’s a serious blow.” LA holds judgment
Lance Armstrong – busy riding the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa with 20,000 other cyclists – declined to comment on his former teammate’s doping positive.
”I’m not here to talk about that,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “I don’t know much about Floyd’s case. I do know that we’ve got a suspicious A sample and we’re waiting on the B sample to be confirmed. Until that happens I don’t have anything to say. I’m in Iowa to ride RAGBRAI and hopefully talk to people about cancer.”
Landis, Phonak pages down
Heavy traffic temporarily knocked down the Phonak cycling web page Thursday while Floyd Landis’ personal web page (www.floydlandis.com) is down temporarily, with a message: “The site is currently offline until further notice.”