By Jeff Jones
"All I want to do before I take any questions is ask that everybody take a step back - I don't know what your position is now, and I wouldn't blame you if you were a bit skeptical because of what cycling has been through in the past and the way other cases have gone - but all I'm asking for, just for me, is that I be given a chance to prove that I'm innocent. Cycling has a traditional way of trying people in the court of public opinion before they get a chance to do anything else. I can't stop that but I would like to be assumed innocent until proven guilty, since that's the way we do things in America."
Floyd Landis was speaking to reporters in a teleconference from Europe, attempting to explain why his A sample showed an abnormally high testosterone-epitestosterone (T:E) level after stage 17 of the Tour de France. Landis was understandably devastated by the news, as he realised the task that lay in front of him to prove his innocence. If the B sample confirms the A result, then the battle will become harder than anything Landis did to win the Tour de France.
Landis was informed of the result on Wednesday morning by fax, and subsequently cancelled all his scheduled criterium appearances and interviews. "My immediate reaction was to look for the alcohol bottle," said Landis with his typically nervous laugh.
"My secondary reaction was a bit more logical...It's hard to put into words what I had - everything I could have possibly hoped for and dreamed of for the last 10 years and at the exact moment I was told, every single scenario went through my head about what was going to happen. There was no way for me to be able to tell myself that this wasn't going to be a disaster, no matter what. Whether I come out of this proving myself innocent, no matter what happens next, I knew it was going to be a long road. So my immediate reaction was, from a very very high to a very low."
So far, he doesn't have an answer as to why his T:E level was so high. "I've heard a lot of things because that's the subject right now. But I'm trying to be careful not to jump to any conclusions. I would like to hear things from experts who know exactly what they're talking about and not just speculation...But there must be an explanation. I don't know we'll ever get an explanation because what I need to do now is try to prove now is that there are variations in my testosterone level which are out of the ordinary. As to what actually caused it on that particular day, I can only speculate, because when you race your bike every day, I don't know exactly what happens."
Asked whether he had ever taken any performance enhancing substances, Landis replied, "I'll say no. The problem I have here again is that most of the public has an idea about cycling because of the way things have gone in the past. So I'll say no, knowing that a lot of people will assume I'm guilty before I've had a chance to defend myself, but there you have it."
Landis said that today [Friday] he will ask for the B sample to be analysed, and it could take another week or more before the results are known.