By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland announced today its decision regarding ex-Tour de France winner Floyd Landis vs. US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). The court ruled against Landis, ending his fight to clear his name and regain his Tour victory. Landis will have to serve the full two-year suspension that is back-dated to January 30, 2007 as that is when he officially declared voluntary non-competition status. Additionally, Landis was ordered to pay $100,000 in costs to the USADA.
In a statement released by the CAS, it found that: "1. The LNDD is a WADA-accredited laboratory which benefits from the presumption that it conducted sample analysis in accordance with international laboratory standards. 2. The athlete has not rebutted this presumption by showing that a departure from the International Standard occurred."
The panel then went on to conclude from the evidence presented that the "presence of exogenous testosterone or its precursors or metabolites in Floyd Landis' sample proved that he violated the anti-doping rules of the UCI [International Cycling Union]."
In response to today's ruling, Landis released a short statement in which he hinted at a desire to continue the legal fight. "I am saddened by today's decision," said Landis. "I am looking into my legal options and deciding on the best way to proceed."
This was Landis' final step in his bid to win back his Tour de France title, though the fight could go on in other legal areas, such as civil suits or an appeal to the Swiss Federal Court. Further, there have been some disputes over when Landis actually began serving his suspension, since he continues to race in non-UCI and non-USAC sanctioned mountain bike events. Landis told Cyclingnews in February that if his suspension date were changed to make his sanction effectively longer, then he would no longer try to return to professional racing.
Shortly after the verdict was made public, USADA released a statement from its CEO Travis Tygart. "We are pleased that justice was served and that Mr. Landis was not able to escape the consequences of his doping or his effort to attack those who protect the rights of clean athletes," said Tygart.
Just days after the end of the 2006 Tour de France, news leaked that Landis had returned a positive A sample from stage 17 for elevated testosterone levels. A public relations melee ensued with Landis denying taking any substance and trying to explain away the positive. A week later the B sample was analysed and returned the same result.
From there Landis began assembling an all-star defence team including well-known pro-athlete lawyer Howard Jacobs, as USADA announced it was moving forward with the case. Meanwhile the cycling world continued to be rocked as stake-holders such as the UCI, WADA, USADA and USA Cycling all chose their sides while sponsors began pulling their financial interests from the sport. Additionally, leaders such as WADA chief Dick Pound and the UCI's head Pat McQuaid continued their constant verbal sparring even over the Landis case.
During the six-month pre-arbitration period the French lab that performed the initial testing came into the media spotlight. At the same time, the Landis camp launched into a public relations fight in an attempt to win in the court of public opinion before even setting foot in the arbitration hearing. Landis' entire defence was posted on his web site for anyone to read; as was the formal presentation before the actual hearing.
After many delays, the actual event commenced in May of 2007 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. And what was expected to be a mostly science-focused hearing turned into a soap opera as Greg LeMond took the stand, revealing hidden secrets he told to Landis and accusing Landis' business manager of verbal threats.
Nonetheless, the hearing continued and eventually concluded. Four months later the three-person panel upheld the original decision. Landis then filed his final appeal with the CAS in November 2007, and appeared before the three-member panel in March 2008.
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