Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images
Floyd Landis at a July 28 news conference in Madrid, soon after doping allegations surfaced.
Floyd Landis at a July 28 news conference in Madrid, soon after doping allegations surfaced. Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images
PARIS (AP) — Floyd Landis was fired by his team and the Tour de France no longer considered him its champion Saturday after his second doping sample tested positive for higher-than-allowed levels of testosterone.
The head of France's anti-doping commission said the samples contained synthetic testosterone, indicating that it came from an outside source.
The second or "B" sample, "confirmed the result of an adverse analytical finding" in last week's "A" sample, the International Cycling Union said.
Pierre Bordry, who heads the French anti-doping council, said the lab that found higher-than-allowable levels of the hormone in both samples also discovered synthetic testosterone.
"I have received a text message from Chatenay-Malabry lab that indicates the 'B' sample of Floyd Landis' urine confirms testosterone was taken in an exogenous way," Bordry told The Associated Press.
Landis had claimed the testosterone was "natural and produced by my own organism."
The Swiss-based team Phonak immediately severed ties with Landis and the UCI said it would ask USA Cycling to open disciplinary proceedings against him.
"Landis will be dismissed without notice for violating the teams internal Code of Ethics," Phonak said in a statement.
"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."
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said Landis no longer was considered champion, but the decision to strip him of his title rests with the UCI.
"It goes without saying that for us Floyd Landis is no longer the winner of the 2006 Tour de France," Prudhomme told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "Our determination is even stronger now to fight against doping and to defend this magnificent sport."
Prudhomme said runner-up Oscar Pereiro of Spain would be the likely new winner.
"We can't imagine a different outcome," Prudhomme said.
If stripped of the title, Landis would become the first winner in the 103-year history of cycling's premier race to lose his Tour crown over doping allegations.
UCI lawyer Philippe Verbiest said Landis would officially remain Tour champion pending the American disciplinary process.
"Until he is found guilty or admits guilt, he will keep the yellow jersey," he said. "This is normal. You are not sanctioned before you are found guilty."
If found guilty, Landis also faces a two-year ban from the sport.
Despite the second positive test, Landis maintained his innocence.
"I have never taken any banned substance, including testosterone," he said in a statement. "I was the strongest man at the Tour de France, and that is why I am the champion.
"I will fight these charges with the same determination and intensity that I bring to my training and racing. It is now my goal to clear my name and restore what I worked so hard to achieve."
Landis' urine sample was analyzed at the Chatenay-Malabry lab outside Paris.
The results of the second test come nearly two weeks after he stood atop the winner's podium on the Champs-Elysees in the champion's yellow jersey.
Landis' positive tests set off what could now be months of appeals and arguments by the American, who says the positive finding was due to naturally high testosterone levels. He has repeatedly declared his innocence.
"It's incredibly disappointing," three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond said by phone from the starting line at the Pan Mass Challenge in Sturbridge, Mass. "I don't think he has much chance at all to try to prove his innocence."
The tests were conducted on urine samples drawn July 20 after Landis' Stage 17 victory during a grueling Alpine leg, when he regained nearly eight minutes against then-leader Pereiro — and went on to win the three-week race.
The case is expected to go to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency; the process could take months, possibly with appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"It doesn't end here," said Landis' Spanish lawyer, Jose Maria Buxeda. "What matters is the concept. A prohibited substance has been found in the samples, but no immediate sanction comes into effect yet. The rider will defend himself."
Landis, a 30-year-old former mountain biker, says he was tested eight other times during the three-week tour and those results came back negative.
Landis' spokesman Michael Henson confirmed this week that the rider had tested positive for a testosterone-epitestosterone ratio of 11:1 — well above the 4:1 limit.
Landis has hired high-profile American lawyer Howard Jacobs, who has represented several athletes in doping cases.
Jacobs plans to go after the UCI for allegedly leaking information regarding the sample testing.
Earlier this week, a New York Times report cited a source from the UCI saying that a second analysis of Landis' "A" sample by carbon isotope ratio testing had detected synthetic testosterone — meaning it was ingested.
Since the Phonak team was informed of the positive test on July 27, Landis and his defense team have offered varying explanations for the high testosterone reading — including cortisone shots taken for pain in Landis' degenerating hip; drinking beer and whiskey the night before; thyroid medication; and his natural metabolism.
Another theory — dehydration — was rebuffed by anti-doping experts.
"When I heard it was synthetic hormone, it is almost impossible to be caused by natural events. It's kind of a downer," said LeMond, the first American to win the Tour. "I feel for Floyd's family. I hope Floyd will come clean on it and help the sport. We need to figure out how to clean the sport up, and we need the help of Floyd."