ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
The American cyclist Floyd Landis is on the offensive, vigorously denying that he cheated to win the Tour de France. Landis started the week as cycling's new superstar, the rebellious rider who battled unimaginable pain, racing with a degenerative hip. He led the race for several stages, but then fell so far behind at one point that he was counted out.
SIEGEL: Then, in the 17th stage, over a difficult mountain course, he came roaring back in a performance hailed as one of the most amazing in Tour history. After winning that stage, as is protocol, Floyd Landis was tested for drugs. The result from that test, the so-called A sample, showed a problem level of testosterone. Results from the second, so-called B sample, will be tested soon.
NORRIS: Cyclist Floyd Landis joins us now from Madrid. And Mr. Landis, let's just get right to it. Were you doping in the Tour de France?
Mr. FLOYD LANDIS (Professional cyclist): Absolutely not.
NORRIS: And you've explained that you had unusually high levels of testosterone in your system for natural reasons. Natural reasons.
Mr. LANDIS: That's not actually accurate. What I had was a test which showed a ratio of two natural substances, one testosterone and one epitestosterone. They have a formula which is supposed to fit everybody, which says that a 4 to 1 ratio is the maximum of a normal ratio. What actually happened here was there's a so-called unnatural ratio of two natural substances. There's no evidence of any unnatural substance in my body.
NORRIS: If you maintain that you haven't taken any drugs, that you did nothing to goose your performance, what would explain these test results?
Mr. LANDIS: That's what I have hired experts to figure out. I cannot explain it because this is equally as new to me as to anyone else paying attention to this case right now.
NORRIS: It's curious why this wasn't detected earlier, since you were tested at several points throughout the race.
Mr. LANDIS: That seems odd to me also and, from that perspective, none of it makes any sense. I've been tested five times before that in this race alone. And in the other three races, which I won previously this year, which I've not talked about much, but they're equally as important races as any, and I've been tested four times in each one.
NORRIS: What do you do if that B sample comes back the same way?
Mr. LANDIS: I expect that it will. The problem is not a problem with the test, as far as I know. The problem is that, at times, from the way it's been explained to me, there are variations in the ratio and for some reason in some individuals, there are numbers which don't fit the criteria which they claim to be natural. On top of that, if you go to the World Anti-Doping Association's website, you can read about this and it explains there that sometimes these levels are natural even though they don't fit the criteria.
NORRIS: So, if it comes back, do you just hand over that bowl? Hand over that jersey? Or do you plan to fight this -
Mr. LANDIS: No, I plan to -
NORRIS: - all the way to arbitration court?
Mr. LANDIS: No, I plan at the same time that I request the B sample to ask for an endocrinological review of my body to prove that there are times during the day, or at some points that, if I were tested, I would be shown to be out of the 4 to 1 ratio, albeit from a natural cause. Explaining that - I can't. I'm waiting for the experts to do that.
NORRIS: A natural cause. What might that be?
Mr. LANDIS: Like I said, I have no idea. That's why I have experts working on it.
NORRIS: You've been asked in the past few days a few times now if you've ever taken performance enhancing drugs and your answer was, if I may say, a little elliptical. You weren't as clear as some of your racing fans might have hoped. Why not a simple yes or no answer to that question?
Mr. LANDIS: The answer's no, and I think that was a mistake. I was trying at the time to see things from the point of view of the outside world and knowing that people may or may not have already preconceived ideas about cycling because there's been a few cases, too many times in a row in the past. And I was trying to fairly judge what the outside perspective would be. So rather than just saying no, I tried to explain why I understood if people didn't believe me at the time.
NORRIS: Floyd, how's your hip?
Mr. LANDIS: My hip is the same as it was before. It's not perfect and it's going to get replaced within a few weeks and I'm very happy about that, because I plan to race again next year and anybody that thinks I'm not a fighter and not going to stand up for what I deserve, then they didn't watch the race.
NORRIS: Floyd Landis, thanks so much for talking to us.
Mr. LANDIS: Thank you. I appreciate that.
NORRIS: That was cyclist Floyd Landis speaking to us from Madrid, Spain.
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