The winner of the 2006 Tour de France may not be confirmed until after next year’s race starts in London’s Whitehall. This bizarre prospect follows the confirmation that the winner on the road, Floyd Landis, did indeed test positive for testosterone, marking the start of a lengthy legal procedure.
After Saturday morning’s B-sample analysis result Landis’s lawyer José María Buxeda said yesterday that he did not expect the final ruling on the winner until “December of this year or January of next year” because even when an initial verdict is announced – likely to be within a month – there remain two further appeal procedures.
However, although Buxeda’s last case – the unsuccessful appeal after the Tour of Spain winner Roberto Heras’s positive test for erythropoietin – was completed in six months, the other major cycling doping case, Tyler Hamilton’s positive for blood doping, lasted 15 months because of the complexity of the scientific evidence that the American and his lawyers produced.
As well as attacking the International Cycling Union over what they claim was a breach of procedure, Landis and his legal team will focus on two areas. “Either we can explain there has been a mistake in the analytical procedure,” said Buxeda, “or that there are other circumstances that have created an increase in the testosterone level and a finding that the testosterone was exogenous.”
After the test Landis maintained his innocence. “I have never taken any banned substance, including testosterone. I was the strongest man in the Tour de France and that is why I am the champion. It is now my goal to clear my name and restore what I worked so hard to achieve.”
Another member of his legal team, Howard Jacobs, said : “In consultation with some of the leading medical and scientific experts we will prove that Floyd Landis’s victory in the 2006 Tour de France was not aided by the use of any banned substances.”
Landis remains the 2006 Tour de France winner until the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announces the outcome of the disciplinary procedure in three or four weeks, which will only happen when the 30-year-old American and his lawyers have made a defence. Then he is likely to receive the mandatory two-year ban, the loss of his title and the €450,000 (£300,000) prize money that goes with it. He would be the first Tour winner to be disqualified over drugs and the first to be relieved of his title for 102 years.
But Landis can then appeal against that USADA verdict, which would be ruled on by a panel of US judges. Finally, if they too find against him he can take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the Lausanne-based tribunal whose ruling would be definitive.
The Tour de France organiser Christian Prudhomme said that, although Landis retains the yellow jersey, so far as the men who run the race are concerned he is no longer the winner.