By Susan Westemeyer
With his own doping case set to commence early next week, 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis has come out with headline-grabbing claims that the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) offered him a deal to reduce his potential suspension on his alleged doping infringement if he would provide incriminating evidence against Lance Armstrong "or anyone more important than me," according to ESPN.com.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday in Los Angeles, Landis claimed that Travis Tygart, USADA's general counsel, made the offer to his lawyer, Howard Jacobs, shortly after Landis' positive test was confirmed in August last year. Landis claimed that the agency was willing "to do harm to my reputation in order to get to Lance.
"It was clarified for me that if I gave information that would incriminate Lance then I would be given a shorter sentence," Landis said, according to a Reuters news agency story. He added that he had not responded to the offer, saying, "I don't think that offer justified a response".
According to USAToday.com, he was offered "the lightest possible sentence", that being "as little as one month".
Landis' claims have generated significant publicity around the world, but because USADA is prevented from commenting on doping cases, there has been no response from the American doping regulator.
Landis rode with Armstrong on the US Postal Service team before leaving to join Phonak, the Swiss-registered team that has since folded. Landis won the TdF while with Phonak, continuing the Americans' grip of road cycling's biggest prize after Armstrong had secured seven consecutive Tours de France from 1999-2005.
(As background, the former US Postal Service rider, Jonathan Vaughters, has claimed that Landis has photos of a motorcycle courier who is allegedly transporting blood in a refrigerated case. It is alleged that this blood was to be used for enhancing the performance of cyclists during major races. Vaughters subsequently clarified that his comments - one of many revelations of an instant messaging conversation between Vaughters and another former US Postal Service rider, Frankie Andreu, tendered as evidence in an unrelated court case in the USA - were based on hearsay.)
Landis also released a lengthy statement summarizing his arguments for his hearing, which is scheduled to start next week, and announced that he intends to file an ethics complaint against World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president Dick Pound.
Tygert told ESPN that he is not allowed to comment on ongoing cases, but that "if Mr Landis wants to waive the rule and allow USADA to comment, I will be more than happy to comment".
Armstrong said that he was not surprised by the news, nor did it bother him that Landis made the story public. "I think Floyd has to make a case for himself," Armstrong said, according to ESPN. "This says a lot about USADA's methods, their tactics and their confidence in their case. He has a scientific case to fight, but it's also a case of ethics and morals. This makes USADA look petty."
"I think it's absurd," he added about the alleged search for information against him. "There's nothing to find. They've looked everywhere and can't find anything. The other thing I've said is that it will never go away."
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