Arbitrators decide against Landis



Floyd Landis reacts as he crosses the finish line to win the 17th stage of the 93rd Tour de France in the French Alps on July 20, 2006. Landis was found guilty on Thursday of doping during the cycling race. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, ALESSANDRO TROVATI

PARIS – The verdict said “guilty.”

Like so much else in the confusing, contentious Floyd Landis doping case, though, none of the answers are really that simple.

Landis lost his expensive and explosive case Thursday when two of three arbitrators upheld the results of a test that showed the 2006 Tour de France champion used synthetic testosterone to fuel his spectacular comeback victory.

The decision means Landis, who repeatedly has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, must forfeit his Tour title and is subject to a two-year ban, retroactive to Jan. 30, 2007.

Not that it changes his opinion of who the rightful winner was.

“I am innocent,” he said, “and we proved I am innocent.”

The majority of the panel disagreed.

According to documents obtained by The Associated Press, lead arbitrators Patrice Brunet and Richard McLaren voted to uphold the positive test with Christopher Campbell dissenting.

In its 84-page decision, the majority found the initial screening test to measure Landis’ testosterone levels – the testosterone-to-epitestosterone test – was not done according to World Anti-Doping Agency rules.

But the more precise and expensive carbon-isotope ratio analysis (IRMS), performed after a positive T-E test is recorded, was accurate, the arbitrators said, meaning “an anti-doping rule violation is established.”

“As has been held in several cases, even where the T-E ratio has been held to be unreliable … the IRMS analysis may still be applied,” the majority wrote. “It has also been held that the IRMS analysis may stand alone as the basis” of a positive test.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for all clean athletes and everyone who values fair and honest competition,” U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said.

Now, Landis is left with one final way to possibly salvage his title – an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

If Landis doesn’t appeal – or appeals and loses – he’ll be the first person in the 105-year history of the race to lose the title because of a doping offense.

Given the vigor with which he pursued the case, and the more than $2 million he raised to do it, this goes down as a devastating loss for the 31-year-old cyclist from Murietta, Calif.

He has steadfastly insisted that cheating goes against everything he stands for. He said he was merely a pawn in the anti-doping system’s all-consuming effort to find cheaters and keep money flowing to its labs and agencies.

“This ruling is a blow to athletes and cyclists everywhere,” Landis said. “For the Panel to find in favor of USADA when, with respect to so many issues, USADA did not manage to prove even the most basic parts of their case shows that this system is fundamentally flawed.”

He is still weighing his legal options, according to a statement released by his legal team.

“This is a miscarriage of justice,” said Maurice Suh, the lead attorney for Landis.

“He is at the mercy of people much bigger than him,” said Landis’ mother, Arlene, speaking to WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pa.

The decision comes more than a year after Landis’ stunning comeback in Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour, one that many people said couldn’t be done without some kind of outside help.

Pat McQuaid, leader of cycling’s ruling body, said rules dictate that Landis can be stripped of his Tour de France title immediately. That makes Oscar Pereiro, who finished second last year, the official winner.

“It’s not a great surprise considering how events have evolved,” McQuaid said. “He got a highly qualified legal team who tried to baffle everybody with science and public relations. And in the end, the facts stood up.”

Landis insisted on a public hearing not only to prove his innocence, but to provide an unflinching look at USADA and the rules it enforces, and also establish a pattern of incompetence at the French lab where his urine was tested.

The decision comes a full 14 months after Landis’ final sprint down the Champs-Elysees, which was bustling with businessmen and shoppers Thursday, not bicyclists and spectators.

“We waited too long,” Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme said. “But it is an ending as we expected. It’s over, and we never had any doubts.”