In his first interview with a European television station since July 23, 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis has reiterated his innocence. "I did not take testosterone," the former Phonak rider told France 2 from his home in California. The interview was aired in the broadcaster's main sports show on Sunday evening, Stade 2. "I have to wait for the scientists to prove it, but I hope that everybody will keep an open mind and look at all the evidence before they make a judgment."
Landis is currently preparing for his hearing in front of the USADA, scheduled to take place on January, in which he will defend himself against doping allegations caused by a positive test for testosterone on July 20, 2006. That day, the 30 year-old made up half of the time he had lost the previous day in a stunning solo attack that was praised at the time for being one of the most courageous moves in Tour history.
His ride on stage 17 saw the American jump from 11th on GC back into third, and he reclaimed the yellow jersey two days later in the final individual time trial. Of his eipic ride on stage 17, he said, "It's not uncommon, when you have a bad day, that the best day is the next day".
The French reporter was intrigued by Landis' first reactions to his positive test for testosterone: that he had drunk several beers and whiskey on the night before his famous breakaway to Morzine. Did he understand why people did not believe this explanation? "Yeah, of course. If I try to put myself in their position, I would feel the same way," Landis said. "But at the time, I wasn't trying to make the connection between alcohol and the drug test. I was trying to tell a story in detail of what happened, hoping that somebody would have an explanation."
So how did he explain the positive doping test result? "I can't explain it. I'm just as surprised and confused as everybody. I have to rely on my lawyer and the scientists, because, to be honest, I'm a bicycle racer... That's all I know and that's the only thing I'm good at."
When the reporter asked Landis which arguments he used to question the results of the Chatenay-Malabry anti-doping laboratory, Landis responded, "Even the best people make mistakes. I can't say that the lab has always been the best lab, but I can say that in this case, they made some mistakes."
These last few months, a rumour had spread within the cycling scene in Europe, according to which Landis received a blood transfusion which contained the testosterone. "I heard from other journalists that there was a rumour, but just like with the testosterone test, I can't defend myself against that, because I don't have any information on where this rumour came from," Landis stated.
The American, who did admit that he had injections of corticosteroids to relieve the pain caused by his injured hip during the Tour de France, was also asked whether Lance Armstrong gave him advice on the doping allegations. "He's also been accused of things in the past, and he's one of the few people who can relate to the situation," Landis said about his former US Postal teammate. "His advice is just to be clear in what I say, and to not expect people to give me too much the benefit of the doubt."
Viewing the video of the 2007 Tour de France presentation, in which Tour organiser ASO takes a look back at this year's event - finishing with an image of Landis exploding into pieces like broken glass - Landis admitted that he was "disappointed" to be snubbed in this way. "But I also understand that ASO has a difficult position. I think [cycling] deserves a better reputation than this. I didn't do anything to cause the problems that we have now, but I think that there must be solutions in the future."
Landis, who is back to training two hours per day after having his hip replacement surgery done successfully, only cheered up when finally asked if he had something specific to say to French TV spectators. "My experiences in France, with the French people, were some of the best memories I've ever had in my life," he responded. "It's a beautiful place, and if I could go back and race the Tour again, it would be a dream of mine at this point."
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