By Laura Weislo
More than six months after learning that he tested positive for exogenous testosterone during the 2006 Tour de France, Floyd Landis now knows when he will have his day in court. The French anti-doping agency, AFLD, announced that they will move forward with hearings on the case starting on Thursday, despite recommendations from WADA president Dick Pound,vice-president Jean-Francois Lamour, and Floyd Landis' attorneys to delay hearings until the US Anti-doping Agency (USADA) can complete its own proceedings.
Meanwhile, at a press conference in New York, Landis' spokesperson Michael Henson announced that the date for Landis' USADA arbitration has been set for May 14, 2007.
Henson said that Landis will be traveling to California on Thursday, and will not appear in person at the hearing in Paris, but will be represented by his legal team. Despite the AFLD moving forward against their wishes, Landis' team still has hope that the AFLD will delay any ruling on the case. "We don't know what or if any ruling will be made [on Thursday]", said Henson, and added that Landis' team has had "fair dealings" with the French authorities. Brian Rafferty, the chairman of the Floyd Fairness Fund, said, "The AFLD and Mr. Bordry have been nothing but open and fair, and we hope they will stay the hearings and follow standard jurisdictional lines."
AFLD president Pierre Bordry told the Associated Press that Landis can be assured that he will receive a fair hearing. "It's not because someone is positive that he must be automatically suspended, the rights of the defense are very important."
If Landis were to be suspended by the AFLD, that suspension would only apply to races on French soil. The outcome of the USADA arbitration holds much more grave consequences for Landis. If his defense is unsuccessful, he will lose his Tour de France title and prize winnings, and be sanctioned for two years. Under the ProTour rules, he will not be allowed to race for a ProTour team for four years, which could spell the end of the 32 year-old Landis' career. Landis himself indicated as such in December, "If I'm banned for four years and stripped of my title and prize-money, I'll never race again. My desire for it would have been obliterated."
The legal costs in his fight to prove his innocence have reached nearly US$400,000 - 500,000, according to friend and presenter of Landis' "Wiki-defense," Arnie Baker, MD. Baker re-iterated the points of the defense, which was made public last October, in Wednesday's press conference, pointing out labeling, margin of error, and standardization problems in the LNDD lab's test results. "This whole thing is so full of errors I don't know what to think except I can't call it a positive test." Baker summarized. "I don't think the USADA should be looking to sanction anyone. I think WADA should be looking to improve practices."
Landis' legal team is currently still working on the "discovery phase" of their case, and are trying to get the lab documentation on the tests performed on Landis' urine from stages other than stage 17, all of which came back negative. Presumably, the other test data could be used to show that the stage 17 results was an aberration, due to contamination or other testing flaws, but the team is having difficulty getting the documents from USADA. "We would like to get the information that's the right of anyone who's accused of something like this." said Rafferty, "We have the right to that, and we don't think they want to give it to us - maybe because they know what it will show."
Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied