MADRID (AP) – With his voice steady and his tone defiant, Floyd Landis vowed he would clear his name of allegations that he cheated to win the Tour de France.
In his first public appearance since a testosterone imbalance showed up in a urine test and cast his title into doubt, the American cyclist said his body’s natural metabolism – not doping of any kind – caused the result, and that he would soon have the test results to prove it.
“We will explain to the world why this is not a doping case but a natural occurrence,” Landis said Friday from the Spanish capital.
Wearing a baseball cap turned backward and a white shirt with the name of his Phonak team, Landis lashed out at the media for characterizing his plight as a drug scandal and said he wanted to “make absolutely clear that I am not in any doping process.”
Later Friday, Landis’s personal physician sought to clarify the nature of the test result and the possible benefits of the hormone in question.
“He does not have a high level of testosterone. That’s not been documented. He has a high ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in his urine,” Dr. Brent Kay said on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
Kay said the test could indicate elevated testosterone or low epitestosterone, or some other factor – including handling or specimen contamination. Kay, speaking from Los Angeles, also said that using testosterone would hurt rather than help a cyclist.
“I think everybody needs to take a step back and look at what we’re talking about, because testosterone is a bodybuilding steroid that builds mass,” Kay said. “It builds mass over long-term use of weeks, months, and even years.
“And it’s crazy to think that a Tour de France professional cyclist would be using testosterone, particularly in the middle of a race. It’s a joke. Every sports medicine expert, physician, trainer, scientist that I’ve talked to in the last day, have really the same opinion, ‘No way. This is a joke.’ “
Landis, a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, said he was shocked when told of the initial result. He said he had been tested six other times during the tour, and many other times during the year.
The aggressive tack Landis and his supporters took Friday was a departure from his Thursday teleconference, when he said he expected to clear his name but not his reputation, and had no idea what might have caused the test result after the Tour’s 17th stage.
Landis is still awaiting results from a backup sample, which would clear him immediately. But his lawyer, Luis Sanz, said he fully expected the backup test to come back with the same result, because the testosterone imbalance was produced naturally by Landis’ body.
The 30-year-old cyclist said Friday that he would undergo additional testing to prove that “the levels that I’ve had during the Tour and all my career are natural and produced by my own organism.”
Until those tests are conducted, Landis said, “I ask not to be judged, or much less to be sentenced by anyone.”
But Landis saved his most defiant tone for the defense of his title as Tour de France champion.
“I was the strongest guy. I deserved to win, and I’m proud of it,” he said.
Landis appeared to lose any chance of victory during a disastrous 16th stage of the Tour, then broke out with one of the greatest performances in history the next day. After winning the 17th stage, he submitted to a drug test – standard for a stage winner – that showed an “unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone.”
Phonak suspended Landis after the International Cycling Union notified it Wednesday of the result, and he could stripped of his title and fired from the team if he does not clear his name.
A homecoming parade planned for Landis next week in Ephrata, Pa., has been put on hold pending more test results, organizer Rich Ruoff said Friday. As many as 10,000 people and 500 cyclists were expected at the event.
The news of Landis’s test has rocked the cycling world, already under a cloud following a wide-ranging doping investigation in Spain that led to the barring of several of the world’s leading cyclists from the Tour.
On the eve of the Tour’s start, nine riders – including pre-race favorites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso – were ousted, implicated in a Spanish doping investigation. Their names turned up on a list of 56 cyclists who allegedly had contact with a Spanish doctor at the center of the probe. Landis was not implicated in that investigation.
Seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong said all he knew about Landis’s case was what has been reported.
“But I will say this,” Armstrong told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday. “When Floyd was with us, there was never a problem. We never saw anything even remotely off, never had a reason to suspect anything. He left our team for a better offer. There was no suspicious behavior, none. It’s that simple.
“Secondly, I can’t help but be aware the lab that found this suspicious reading is the same one that was at the center of the ‘L’Equipe affair.”
The French newspaper, L’Equipe, said samples taken from Armstrong during the 1999 Tour de France and then frozen tested positive for the blood-booster EPO. The International Cycling Union commissioned a report that later cleared Armstrong of the doping allegations.
“When an independent investigator contacted the lab, they wouldn’t answer the simplest of questions, wouldn’t go into their testing ethics, who did the tests, etc., etc.,” Armstrong said. “I don’t personally have a ton of faith in that lab. I think they should lose their authorization and the report pretty much supports that.”