AFLD's ruling on Landis expected Thursday

Wednesday, February 7th 2007, 12:20 pm
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ The French Anti-Doping Agency will rule Thursday whether to ban Floyd Landis from racing in France for up to two years after his positive doping test at the 2006 Tour de France.

The nine-member panel, headed by AFLD president Philippe Bordry, will meet in Paris, and Bordry insisted Landis will receive a fair hearing.

``It's not because someone is positive that he must be automatically suspended,'' Bordry said Wednesday. ``The rights of the defense are very important.''

Landis' urine sample after a Tour de France stage win was found to contain elevated testosterone to epitestosterone levels. He risks being the first rider in the 104-year history of the race to be stripped of his title, and Tour director Christian Prudhomme has said the Tour no longer considers him the winner.

The American cyclist will not attend the hearing and will instead be represented by his lawyers, Landis' spokesman Michael Henson said Wednesday in a conference call.

Under French law, the AFLD has the right to ``sanction by one or two years suspension on French soil,'' Bordry said. That would exclude Landis from this year's Tour, and other events such as Paris-Nice and Paris-Roubaix.

``The college (AFLD) will pronounce itself freely,'' Bordry said. ``We are applying French law.''

Bordry said Landis was informed in September that he would face an AFLD hearing.

``When the result of the 'B' sample confirmed that of the 'A,' we told him that he was entering into the French disciplinary process,'' Bordry said.

At Thursday's hearing, Landis' lawyer can argue a final time before the panel _ which includes French magistrates _ before the AFLD meets to decide its verdict.

``All the perspectives exist,'' Bordry said. ``The college is serene.''

Last week, World Anti-Doping Agency vice president Jean-Francois Lamour _ also France's sports minister _ requested a postponement of the hearing.

Lamour said Friday that it would be ``preferable'' to wait until after a March hearing on the case by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which has yet to begin _ leading to critical comments from Prudhomme, who feels the case is dragging on.

Henson said the date for the USADA hearing has been set for May 14.

Lamour was expressing his own opinion as a WADA official, and not as a French minister.

``He intervened as a member of WADA,'' Bordry said. ``That's good, because it would be strange that a minister demands not to apply French law.''

Landis has denied any wrongdoing and argues that the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory which carried out the tests is unreliable _ a view shared by seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong.

Henson said Landis has been ``subject to a public show trial, conducted by sports bureaucrats who've engaged in a campaign to discredit his achievements with little scientific or technical competency.''

Henson and Arnie Baker, Landis' scientific and medical adviser, claim significant errors were made by the French lab in the transportation, analysis and outcome of his urine sample. Contending Landis' sample was contaminated, they say the testing procedures were unreliable.

``The current system and its leadership are steadily eroding sports capability to eliminate the use of performance-enhancing substances,'' Henson said. ``This is evident in Floyd's case where _ denied the basic right to due process _ he's been subject to fundamentally unfair treatment by the anti-doping organizations and international sports federations.''

Without putting an exact figure on how much Landis' defense has so far cost him, Henson it was likely in the region of US$400,000 (euro308,000) and that about US$150,000 (euro115,000) has been raised via a contribution fund called the Floyd Fairness Fund.

Henson excluded the AFLD from any malpractice and praised Bordry for acting fairly. Henson did not immediately say what Landis' course of action would be should the AFLD suspend him from racing in France, and that the rider would be informed of Thursday's proceedings by phone.