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Cyclist Landis Loses Doping Appeal

Tour de France winner Floyd Landis descends on the pro mountain bike course at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colo.
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Tour de France winner Floyd Landis descends on the pro mountain bike course at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colo.

Cyclist Floyd Landis looked destined to be stripped of his 2006 Tour de France victory after arbitrators on Thursday upheld results of a drug test indicating he used synthetic testosterone to fuel a spectacular comeback in the renowned race.

The decision means Landis — who has strenuously and repeatedly denied using performance-enhancing drugs — must forfeit his Tour de France title and endure a two-year ban on competition, retroactive to Jan. 30, 2007.

The ruling, handed down nearly four months after a bizarre and bitterly fought hearing, leaves the American with one final way to possibly salvage his title - an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

If Landis doesn't appeal, he'll be the first person in the 105-year history of the race to lose the title because of a doping offense.

The vote was 2-1 to uphold the results, with lead arbitrator Patrice Brunet and Richard McLaren in the majority and Christopher Campbell dissenting, according to The Associated Press.

"Today's ruling is a victory for all clean athletes and everyone who values fair and honest competition," U.S. Anti-Doping Agency general counsel Travis Tygart said.

It marks a devastating loss for Landis, who has 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.

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 ration 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 for steroids.

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. Flying to the lead near the start of a grueling Alpine stage, Landis regained nearly eight minutes against the leader, and went on to win the three-week race.

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

Although the panel rejected Landis' argument of a "conspiracy" at the Chatenay-Malabry lab, it did find areas of concern. They dealt with control of the urine sample, the way the tests were run on the machine, the way the machine was prepared and the "forensic corrections" done on the lab paperwork.

"... the Panel finds that the practices of the Lab in training its employees appears to lack the vigor the Panel would expect in the circumstances given the enormous consequences to athletes" of an adverse analytical finding, the decision said.

The majority repeatedly wrote that any mistakes made at the lab were not enough to dismiss the positive test, but also sent a warning.

"If such practices continue, it may well be that in the future, an error like this could result in the dismissal" of a positive finding by the lab.

In Campbell's opinion, Landis' case should have been one of those cases.

"In many instances, Mr. Landis sustained his burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt," Campbell wrote. "The documents supplied by LNDD are so filled with errors that they do not support an Adverse Analytical Finding. Mr. Landis should be found innocent."

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.