Landis Fired from Team, Faces Tour Title Loss

Tour de France winner Floyd Landis is maintaining his innocence — despite a second positive test for increased levels of testosterone during the race. Since the results came out over the weekend, he has been fired by his cycling team.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Tour de France winner Floyd Landis is maintaining his innocence despite a second positive test for increased levels of testosterone.

After the results came out over the weekend, he was fired by his cycling team. Now he faces losing his Tour de France title and being banned from the sport for two years.

Joining me is Christine Brennan, a columnist for USA Today and a regular guest on our program. Good morning.

Ms. CHRISTINE BRENNAN (Columnist, USA Today): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Will Floyd Landis likely lose his title?

Ms. BRENNAN: Yes, he likely will. There's an appeals process, as I think everyone's gotten familiar with drug testing and positive drug tests over the years, Renee, and there is a long and lengthy appeals process. But if at the end of that appeals process it is still deemed that he cheated, he would get a two-year ban and then would be stripped of that title.

MONTAGNE: And he's not the only American athlete accused of doping, of course. Barry Bonds, he's still being investigated for steroid use. He's being booed when he comes on the field. But interestingly, the response from Landis' fans seems, well, I mean, you might call it muted. I mean, some are standing by him. What's going on here?

Ms. BRENNAN: That's a great question. I think because it was such a Disney-style finish two weeks ago, and everyone cheering for this man - a Mennonite, basically unknown in the Tour de France. And then of course he wins it, comes from behind in an exciting fashion. Of course, now we - of course that's been called into question - and, because he has a deteriorating hip.

So many different storylines, I think it's natural. I think its human nature, especially for sports fans, to want to believe that what they just saw is true and to want to believe in the human being. It's probably one of those kind of, say it ain't so, Joe, kind of moments that we're seeing a lot - is, you're right about that, in sports, because of all of the positive drug tests.

MONTAGNE: Well, do you think that it's also because he wasn't especially under suspicion for a long time? And sort of the same with sprinter Justin Gatlin, right?

Ms. BRENNAN: Well, Justin Gatlin, of course, is the world's fastest man, co-holding the world record in the men's 100 meters; Olympic Gold Medalist. He had the exact same kind of test, elevated testosterone levels. So he's in a similar situation, you're right.

I think again, its one of those things. This goes back to 1988 and Ben Johnson. We've been dealing with steroids, front and center in sports now, for 18 years. So, I do think we would hope that what we see is true, and what we can, you know, watch in sports is believable. It's where we take our kids. Its what, you know, what we want them to believe in.

So again, though, I hate to say it, there's so many of these excuses, it's a little bit of the dog ate my homework syndrome now. And I think all of us are starting to question many of these things.

MONTAGNE: Now, if professional, and even Olympic athletes, continue to use performance enhancement drugs, or get caught using them, are their corporate sponsors going to have to crack down and drop contracts? I mean, maybe test themselves?

Ms. BRENNAN: That's a great question and I think that's coming next. For example, in the Barry Bonds situation of course, trying to pass and then passing Babe Ruth's legendary 714 home runs. One would have thought, a couple of years ago, that that would be one of the most celebrated moments in sports of this year. And instead, it basically came along with a whimper, not a bang, and no one paid any attention. The game moved right on and there was no celebration at all.

So I think we're seeing it already. I think we're seeing some of these corporations saying we cannot get anywhere close to these athletes, for fear of what we might find out later. Then again, the Tour de France has sponsors. They're firing, of course - Phonak is firing Floyd Landis, but the reality is that they still have these sponsors.

And I think until that day comes - that a Nike or whatever says no, you cheat, we will take away ever cent - I think we're going to continue to see cheating, unfortunately.

MONTAGNE: Christine, thanks much.

Ms. BRENNAN: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Christine Brennan is a columnist for USA Today.

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