Landis agrees not to race in France this year
PARIS Floyd Landis will skip the Tour de France – and all races in France this year – as part of an agreement with French doping authorities in a case that could strip him of cycling’s most prestigious title.Last year’s Tour champion had hip-replacement surgery 4 1/2 months ago and was unlikely to have competed in this year’s Tour. He agreed Thursday not to race again in France until 2008, and in return the French anti-doping agency postponed its decision on whether to suspend him from competing in France for a maximum of two years because of a positive doping test.”Floyd is pleased that the AFLD has agreed with his counsel’s request that they suspend this proceeding,” spokesman Michael Henson said.Earlier, AFLD president Pierre Bordry said Landis “understood perfectly that if he didn’t act today, we would start the procedure immediately.”Landis will go before the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on May 14 and, following that, the AFLD will deliver its verdict in June.”We will let Landis defend himself as he wishes,” Bordry said.The American, who has denied wrongdoing, did not appear at Thursday’s meeting of the AFLD’s nine-member panel, but sent a lawyer who read his request for a delay.In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, Landis said the parallel cases in France and the United States were complicating matters. He asked the French agency to hold off until after the U.S. agency rules. The USADA will hold its hearings May 14.”In this case, and in order to avoid any misunderstanding, I agree to voluntarily not participate in any professional or amateur cycling event in France until December 31, 2007, and in particular the Tour de France 2007,” Landis said in the letter.Bordry said Landis deserves to be heard by the USADA. However, Bordry echoed Tour de France president Christian Prudhomme’s sentiment that the American agency was dragging out its process.Landis spokesman Michael Henson said Landis was happy with the AFLD’s decision.”Floyd is pleased that the AFLD has agreed with his counsel’s request that they suspend this proceeding until the (USADA) hearing is held in May,” Henson said by telephone.Landis’ urine sample after a 17th-stage win in last year’s Tour de France was found to contain elevated testosterone to epitestosterone levels. He risks being the first rider in the 104-year history of the race to be stripped of his title. Prudhomme has said the Tour no longer considers him the winner.Landis argues that the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory which carried out the tests is unreliable, a view shared by seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong.Landis insisted again on his innocence at a fundraising rally in New York on Wednesday night. He vowed to fight the “lack of leadership at the top of cycling and at the top of the anti-doping agencies.”Bordry said Landis reserves the right to contest the French lab, but maintains the “A” and “B” samples both showed positive readings.”The ‘A’ sample tested positive for testosterone. So we asked Mr. Landis, at the time, if he wanted to do a ‘B’ sample test,” Bordry said. “A ‘B’-sample test was done at Chatenay-Malabry in the presence of an expert nominated by Mr. Landis, (and) paid by him.”Also present, Bordry said, were “an expert nominated by the USADA, and an expert nominated by the International Cycling Union.”He said all “these experts signed the report” agreeing that the tests showed a positive reading.Had disciplinary procedures started Thursday, Landis strongly risked a two-year suspension in accordance with French law applying WADA’s maximum penalty for a first-time failed doping test.France is one of 47 countries which has ratified the WADA code, which effectively gives the anti-doping agency government backing to apply its code sanctions.The United States has yet to ratify WADA’s code.This could lead to a peculiar situation whereby, even if the USADA rules in Landis’s favor, the AFLD can still prevent him from racing in France.”We are absolutely not tied to the USADA’s decision as France has ratified the world code, not the United States,” Bordry said.However, the AFLD does not have any power over any other governments and, should Landis be cleared, the UCI would then review the case and may allow him to compete in major races outside of France such as the Giro d’Italia and the Spanish Vuelta.—Associated Press writer Jean-Luc Courthial and AP Sports writer Barry Wilner in New York contributed to this report.
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