Landis fails 2nd drug test
The Tour de France said Saturday it no longer considers Floyd Landis its champion after a second testof the American cyclist's urineconfirmed the presence of synthetic testosterone.
"It goes without saying that for us, Floyd Landis is no longer the winner of the 2006 Tour de France," said Christian Prudhomme, a Tour director, after the test results were released earlier in the day.
"Our determination is even stronger now to fight against doping and to defend this magnificent sport."
Landis was also fired from his Swiss racing team, Phonak, following revelations Saturday from France's anti-doping commission that his urine samples turned up positive for synthetic testosterone, indicating the male sex hormone was not produced naturally.
However, Landis has repeatedly professed his innocence and vowed to fight the allegations — and did so again Saturday.
"I have never taken any banned substance, including testosterone," Landis said in a statement. "I was the strongest man at the Tour de France, and that is why I am the champion."
His lawyer was preparing the case for arbitration, said the statement issued by Landis's spokesman, Michael Henson.
Awaits disciplinary process
Technically, the 30-year old former mountain bikerwill remain the champ, at least until the U.S. disciplinary process can begin. Landis faces a two-year ban from USA Cycling.
DirectorPierre Bordry of France's anti-doping commissionsaid the latest urine-test results suggest the testosterone came from an outside source.
"I have received a text message from Chatenay-Malabry lab that indicates the 'B' sample of Floyd Landis's urine confirms testosterone was taken in an exogenous way," Bordry said.
Lab head Jacques De Ceaurriz added that the isotope testing procedure was "foolproof."
The finding of synthetic testosterone severely damages Landis's defence strategy. He has repeatedly claimed the high testosterone result was "natural and produced by my own organism."
Loses team backing
Landis faces a possible two-year ban from USA Cycling and could become the first Tour de France winner to lose his title over doping infractions.
Phonak said it was dismissing Landis "without notice for violating the team's internal Code of Ethics.
"Landis will continue to have legal options to contest the findings. However, this will be his personal affair, and the Phonak team will no longer be involved in that," it said in a statement.
Three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond says Landis has little shot of winningan appeal.
"When I heard it was synthetic hormone, it is almost impossible to be caused by natural events. It's kind of a downer," he said.
The two-tiered analysis by the lab, which is accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, is designed to eliminate the chance for mistakes in the first test.
The results of the "B" sample on Saturday morning showed high levels of the hormone, confirming the results of the "A" sample taken July 20.
Landis's tests were conducted on urine samples drawn after his stage victory in a gruelling Alpine leg of the Tour, when he won back nearly eight minutes from then leader Oscar Pereiro of Spain— and back into contention to win the three-week race.
Henson said this week the rider had tested positive for a testosterone-epitestosterone ratio of 11:1— well above the 4:1 limit.
Testosterone is a natural hormone that builds muscle mass. Epitestosterone is a chemically similar natural steroid that is produced independently of testosterone. It can also come in a synthetic form, andsometimes be used as a masking agent for other drugs, including steroids.
Pereiro declares victory
The UCI is expected to referLandis's case to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for handling.
If found guilty, Landis's Tour crown would go to Pereiro, the runner-up.
Pereiro declared on Saturday the victory should be his.
"Now I consider myself the winner," a confident-looking Pereiro told a press conference in his hometown of Vigo, Spain.
Prudhomme agrees. "We can't imagine a different outcome," he said.
One of Landis's lawyers, Jose Maria Buxeda, has said he still believes Landis will prove his innocence, however.
"He's pretty sure we will be able to prove ... that it [elevated hormone ratio] is due to natural causes," Buxeda said.
Landis has said he was tested eight other times during the three-week race and those results came back negative.