Floyd Landis comes clean and takes another fall

Paris: When Floyd Landis raised his arms in celebration after his brilliant solo trek in the final mountain stage of the 2006 Tour de France, he could not have imagined how spectacular his downfall would be.

Landis, 34, was stripped of the Tour title after a positive test for elevated testosterone/epitestosterone ratios but fought a long and expensive case to clear his name.

The American was, however, banned for two years and never managed to return to the sport at the highest level.

He fought his battle elsewhere, staging fundraisers across the United States and raising about USD 500,000 through his website to help his costly defence.

On Thursday, in a series of emails he admitted to doping and accused some of his former team mates of cheating.

His revelations could be considered those of a remorseful man or the sign of an outcast seeking last-gasp credibility.

Landis, the quiet son of a Mennonite family from Lancaster county in Pennsylvania, spent over a million dollars on his defence. He is now thinking of selling his story -- again.

His former leader at US Postal, Lance Armstrong, who was one of those accused of cheating by Landis, was biting in his response to the allegations.

"This is man that wrote a book for profit that had a completely different version," said the seven-times Tour de France champion, who has never tested positive and has always denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

"This is somebody that took, someone said, close to a million dollars from innocent people for his defence under a different premise. And now when it`s all run out, the story changes," he told reporters at the Tour of California.

Four years ago, Landis was hailed as a true champion.

"Landis`s performance not only left its mark on the 2006 Tour, it also left its mark on the whole history of the race," Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme had said of the American`s triumph.

Many felt the discreet but approachable Landis was great for a sport tired of the domination of Armstrong, who was perceived by many in the cycling world as arrogant.

His then Phonak team manager John Lelangue said Landis had revived old-fashioned cycling as the American brought back memories of Luxembourg`s Charly Gaul`s fantastic comeback.

In 1958, the Luxembourg climber lost some 10 minutes because of a mechanical problem but still managed to claim overall victory after an amazing ride in the rain in the 21st stage.

In 2006, Landis was not among the favourites until Ivan Basso of Italy and German Jan Ullrich pulled out after being implicated in a doping investigation in Spain.

Landis fell more than eight minutes off the pace during the 16th stage but produced an astonishing comeback the day after, breaking away to claim a solo win in Morzine and wrapping up overall victory with a powerful ride in the final time trial.

After his ban ended in early 2009, Landis returned to the sport with the domestic OUCH team but enjoyed little success and move around other minor teams.

But he was soon to make the headlines again.

Last February, a French judge issued an arrest warrant against him for suspected hacking into an anti-doping laboratory computer.

French anti-doping agency head Pierre Bordry told Reuters the judge, Thomas Cassuto, believed Landis wanted to prove the laboratory where his samples were tested was wrong.

In his emails, Landis again maintained the testers got it wrong, arguing he had used human growth hormone and not the synthetic testosterone he tested positive for.

The American is now expected to face further disciplinary action and probably the end of his career.

Bureau Report

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