MALIBU, Calif. (AP) _ Floyd Landis spent months crisscrossing the country to explain his defense to anyone who would listen. On Monday, he took his case before the people who can do something about it.
Wearing a yellow necktie instead of the yellow jersey earned when he won the Tour de France last year, Landis strode into the law building at Pepperdine University for the start of his long-awaited arbitration hearing.
``I'm excited to get the case under way,'' he said before the hearing began. ``I hope the arbitrators rule fairly and on the facts. I'm confident if they do, I'll retain my title and be racing again.''
His mother and father, Arlene and Paul, and his wife, Amber, sat behind the defense table. Before the proceedings began, Arlene Landis stepped to the front of the room to snap a picture of her son and the team of lawyers leading his multimillion-dollar defense.
Then, it was showtime.
Landis' lead attorney, Maurice Suh, didn't disappoint.
``Make no mistake about it,'' Suh said in his opening statement, ``this case is an utter disaster.''
The disaster, Suh said, is the way the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has gone about prosecuting the case, which could result in a two-year suspension for Landis and make him the first cyclist in the 104-year history of the Tour de France to be stripped of his title.
Richard Young, the lead attorney presenting USADA's case, said in his opening statement that despite the publicity, this was simply another in a long list of cases USADA handles _ one in which the cold, hard scientific data would prove an athlete had used synthetic testosterone.
``There's nothing unique about what the panel has to decide,'' Young said. ``It's one of dozens of cases in which a high testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio is confirmed by'' a different, more sensitive test.
Suh, however, said it was more than just another case.
``It's a historic case, and it needs to be done right,'' he said.
Accused of using banned synthetic testosterone during his win last year, Landis insisted on turning his arbitration hearing into a public process, in part to expose what he says is the fraudulent way USADA and its partners in the industry do business.
Landis generated lots of support and raised about $500,000 through the Floyd Fairness Fund, but that public support didn't translate into attendance at the hearing.
About 100 people _ mainly attorneys, family, media, witnesses and folks from the university _ showed up. An overflow room that had been set up especially for extra spectators was dark at day's end.
The hearing will last through next Wednesday with dozens of experts, including scientists from the French lab that has been under heavy scrutiny from the Landis camp, scheduled to testify before a three-man panel of arbitrators who will decide the cyclist's fate.
Opening day included four or five hostile exchanges between the lawyers, who spent 10 minutes before opening statements arguing with the arbitrators over what, exactly, could be said.
The first USADA witness, steroid metabolism expert Cedric Shackleton of the Oakland Research Institute, was subject to a long, unfriendly cross-examination that included some testy interplay.
``This is about the 15th time that the witness hasn't been allowed to answer the question,'' Young said while objecting during Suh's cross-examination.
``This is about the 15th time that the witness has answered some other question'' than what he had asked, Suh replied.
At times, Landis seemed mildly amused, looking to friends and smiling as he sat at the corner of the defense table. He is expected to testify later in the hearing.
``We believe in his innocence, so this hasn't been a stress to us,'' Arlene Landis said.
The crux of USADA's argument is to provide evidence of Landis' testosterone use by looking at results from two tests.
The first, the testosterone-to-epitestosterone test, showed Landis had an 11-1 ratio in the urine sample taken after Stage 17. Anything higher than 4-1 can be considered a positive test.
The second, a carbon-isotope ratio test, is a more complex analysis of the urine; debates about that likely will fill up much of the next eight days of testimony.
The day's second witness was J. Thomas Brenna, Cornell professor of nutritional science, who was in the middle of being cross-examined about the intricate science of carbon-isotope ratio testing when testimony ended.
The Landis plan is to question the credibility of the process used at the French lab where the urine was analyzed. That evidence then will be used to impeach USADA's science. Suh's opening statement included visuals that repeated the word ``incompetence'' in bold, red letters six times.
``This is science?'' Suh said while discussing one piece of USADA evidence. ``This is an embarrassment.''