Landis loses appeal, chance to regain 2006 Tour de France title
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Floyd Landis used the arbitration process as public theater to try to prove a point and regain his reputation.
In the latest attempt that almost certainly will be his last, the anti-doping establishment slapped down the one-time 2006 Tour de France winner once more, ruling Landis didn’t play fair, on the bike or in the hearing room.
A three-person panel at the Court of Arbitration for Sport agreed with a previous panel’s decision, ruling Monday that Landis’ positive doping test at the Tour two years ago was, indeed, valid.
He will not regain the title he won with a stunning comeback in Stage 17, a rally many thought was too good to be true and that turned out to be fueled by synthetic testosterone.
Thus ended Landis’ long, bizarre, very public, multimillion-dollar journey through an arbitration process he claimed is rigged against athletes. As one final insult, CAS also told Landis he must pay $100,000 toward the legal fees of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
“I am saddened by today’s decision,” Landis said in a statement. “I am looking into my legal options and deciding on the best way to proceed.”
In its 58-page decision, the panel at sports’ highest court said the French lab that analyzed Landis’ positive test results followed international standards, disagreeing with one of Landis’ key accusations.
Much like the arbitration panel that ruled on this case before, CAS conceded the lab used some “less than ideal laboratory practices, but not lies, fraud, forgery or cover-ups,” the way the Landis camp had alleged.
In the end, the panel saved its harshest criticism for the 32-year-old cyclist from Murrieta, Calif. CAS said his lawyers tried to muddle the evidence and embarrass the French lab, and continued on that course even after the evidence was shown not to exist.
The strategy continued all the way through the closing briefs.
“The Panel has found no evidence at all to sustain any of these serious allegations,” the decision read. “Moreover, the Panel is surprised that such serious allegations should be pursued in the closing brief when it must have been clear at the end of the hearing that there was no evidential basis from expert testimony or otherwise to support them.”
The decision comes just six days before the start of the 2008 Tour.
Landis’ legal options include going to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, but that rarely used strategy has never resulted in a substantial change in a CAS decision. Just last week, sprinter Justin Gatlin tried to fight a CAS decision regarding his eligibility for the upcoming Olympics in American court, but judges ruled they had no jurisdiction in the case.
“We are pleased that justice was served and that Mr. Landis was not able to escape the consequences of his doping or his effort to attack those who protect the rights of clean athletes,” said USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart.
The ruling upholds Landis’ two-year ban from cycling, which is due to end Jan. 29, 2009, though at this point, the ban wasn’t the real issue.
Landis hoped to be exonerated and to get his title back. He also wanted to use the protracted case to shed light on procedures at USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency, which he says are unfair and tilted against athletes who often don’t have the resources to fund their defense.
“That’s always been part of the system, that they’ve always had more resources than the athlete. This is the first time it’s even been close,” Landis’ attorney, Maurice Suh, said in an interview last year.
Bankrolled through several private sources, including a fundraising campaign he launched on his own, Landis forced a case that cost more than $2 million ” a burden on him, but also a strain on the bottom lines of both USADA and WADA, which shared the cost of prosecuting the case.
After an unprecedented public hearing at his first arbitration case last May, the arbitrators upheld his doping ban but scolded USADA and the labs it uses for practices that were less than airtight.
That appeared to give Landis the opening he needed to justify an appeal to CAS. The hearing took place in March in New York, and was considered a “trial de novo” ” not technically an appeal, but a chance to have the case heard anew.
New case, same result.
“CAS’s decision … does little to require that laboratories and anti-doping agencies are held to the same high standards as are athletes,” Suh said in a statement released after the decision.
Though Suh didn’t convince either arbitration panel of that, those present at the first hearing last year in California would concede many of his arguments were compelling.
It was all part of the longest, most expensive and most bizarre case in modern anti-doping history, one Landis insisted be held in public to reveal the evils of the establishment he hoped to knock down.
“This case is a further sad example of an athlete who cheated but persisted in denying,” WADA president John Fahey said. “I hope that athletes who may be tempted to cheat will take this lesson to heart and that this case will serve as a strong deterrent.”
Landis’ case included some scandalous revelations during the public hearing, nothing more shocking than when former Tour de France winner Greg LeMond entered the hearing room.
LeMond told of being sexually abused as a child, confiding that to Landis, then receiving a call from Landis’ manager the night before his testimony threatening to disclose LeMond’s secret to the world if LeMond showed up.
Though it made for great drama, it was damaging for Landis. In the end, the only aspect of the LeMond testimony the panel considered was LeMond’s claim that Landis had admitted to him that he doped ” and the panel disregarded that testimony, saying it couldn’t be used as an admission.
Not surprisingly, LeMond’s name did not surface in the CAS decision.
Meanwhile, Landis’ future plans aren’t yet known, though he has said he is hurting financially. What’s for sure is he will go down as the first cyclist in the history of the Tour to have his title stripped for a doping violation ” and as a pariah in the minds of the cycling authorities he fought.
“The only sympathy I have is that he didn’t accept the first decision and that it cost him a huge amount of money,” said Pat McQuaid, president of cycling’s international federation. “Likewise, he did a huge amount of damage to the sport and that, from the UCI’s point of view, is very difficult to work with.”
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