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Landis Facing Uphill Battle on Doping Charges
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Landis Facing Uphill Battle on Doping Charges

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Landis Facing Uphill Battle on Doping Charges

Landis Facing Uphill Battle on Doping Charges
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Floyd Landis continues to deny doping during the Tour de France. But his effort to clear his name appears increasingly difficult. His doctor has said he did have an abnormally high level of testosterone in his body. A secondary test is being conducted by cycling officials to determine whether an initial positive result was accurate.

DON GONYEA, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Don Gonyea.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

The long awaited drug test on Floyd Landis' backup urine sample begins today in a French lab. The test is expected to take a couple of days. The result on his so-called B sample could indicate whether Landis will become the first rider in Tour de France history to have his title taken away because of doping.

A week ago, the news broke that Landis had an abnormal reading for the steroid testosterone in his test on his initial, or A sample. Since then, Landis has tried to fight off suspicions that in winning the Tour last month he cheated his way to victory.

NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN reporting:

Let's start at the frenzied end of last week, when Floyd Landis seemed like cycling's version of Hans Brinker, trying to stem the flood of doping rumors with a number of media interviews.

The 30-year-old American offered possible explanations as to why a test result showed his testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio was out of whack. It could have been alcohol, or cortisone he was taking for his bad hip, or simply elevated levels of natural testosterone in his system.

Here's what he said in an interview with NPR.

Mr. FLOYD LANDIS (Winner of 2006 Tour de France): They say that the ratio is out of line, but there's no indication that there's anything unnatural in my body at this time.

GOLDMAN: But this week began with news to the contrary.

A report in the New York Times said a more sophisticated test than the one measuring testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio showed there was something unnatural in Landis' body: synthetic testosterone, a banned substance in cycling.

The test, called a carbon isotope ratio test, can distinguish naturally produced from artificial testosterone. Dr. Christiane Ayotte, runs one of the world's top anti-doping labs in Montreal. Hers is not the lab that did the tests on Floyd Landis, but Dr. Ayotte has used the carbon isotope test since the late 1990s. She says it's been quite reliable in the cases she's worked on.

Dr. CHRISTIANE AYOTTE (Anti-Doping Lab, Montreal): It has been giving us the last evidence, and the conclusive evidence, that we needed to, let's say, be comfortable with our findings.

GOLDMAN: Floyd Landis has been silent since the New York Times report came out. Late Wednesday, his lawyer, Howard Jacobs, acknowledged he'd received a written statement that the carbon isotope test showed the presence of synthetic testosterone. But it was a written statement, said Jacobs, with no data.

Mr. HOWARD JACOBS (Attorney for Floyd Landis): There's no documentation that's been provided to Floyd or to myself supporting that allegation. They've made the allegation, certainly, both to the New York Times and in paperwork provided, that the carbon isotope test was positive, but they don't provide the documents that show that. None of them.

GOLDMAN: Jacobs e-mailed a statement to the media yesterday indicating a new tact in Floyd Landis' defense. Jacobs criticized the UCI, cycling's international governing body, for revealing Landis' abnormal drug test result last week. It violated the UCI's own anti-doping rules, Jacob said, which protect an athlete's confidentiality until, at the earliest, completion of that athlete's B sample test, which beings today for Landis.

A reading of the rules confirms this, but the rules also allow for public statements if they're deemed appropriate under the circumstances.

Floyd Landis' B sample test result should be known this weekend. If it's negative, Landis is in the clear. If it's positive, it could set in motion a legal process that lasts months.

Landis has said ultimately he'll prove his innocence, but experts watching his case say the reports of synthetic testosterone may force him to change his strategy - from the argument that nothing bad was in his system to an explanation of how something bad got in.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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