Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - American cyclist Floyd Landis was found guilty in his doping case on Thursday and was directed to surrender his 2006 Tour de France title.
After nearly four months of deliberation, the American Arbitration Association panel ruled 2-1 in the guilty verdict, with the decision formally stripping him of his victory in the 103rd Tour de France.
It was in August, 2006 that tests of a backup urine sample on Landis confirmed abnormally high levels of testosterone.
"Today's ruling is a victory for all clean athletes and everyone who values fair and honest competition," said U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Chief Executive Officer Travis T. Tygart. "This decision confirms for the overwhelming majority of American athletes who compete ethically that USADA is committed to protecting their right to participate on a drug-free playing field."
Christopher Campbell was the lone dissenter in the ruling, and the majority decision came despite serious charges regarding the accuracy and reliability of the test results and the competency of the testing procedures of the laboratory run by the French anti-doping agency (AFLD).
Because of the ruling that Landis used synthetic testosterone to help him with his incredible comeback win, the International Cycling Union has awarded Spaniard Oscar Pereiro, who finished second to Landis, the title.
Patrice Brunet and Richard McLaren ruled in favor of the guilty verdict, meaning Landis will become the first cyclist to lose his title in the history of the Tour de France. However, Landis can still appeal through the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He received a two-year ban from USADA.
"This ruling is a blow to athletes and cyclists everywhere" Landis said in a statement through his attorneys. "For the Panel to find in favor of USADA when, with respect to so many issues, USADA did not manage to prove even the most basic parts of their case shows that this system is fundamentally flawed. I am innocent, and we proved I am innocent."
In his opinion, Campbell said, "Mr. Landis is only required to prove the facts he alleges in this case by a mere balance of the probabilities. In many instances, Mr. Landis sustained his burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The documents supplied by LNDD (Laboratoire National de Depistage et du Dopage) are so filled with errors that they do not support an Adverse Analytical Finding. Mr. Landis should be found innocent."
During the Tour, Landis was taking cortisone shots for a degenerative hip condition that required surgery after the race. He was also taking medication for a thyroid problem.
Whether those issues contributed to the elevated testosterone levels after Stage 17 is unknown.
The stunning stage win came a day after Landis lost the leader's yellow jersey and looked extremely tired when he finished the second day of racing in the Alps. He started the 17th stage the next day in 11th place, more than eight minutes behind overall leader Pereiro, but made a tremendous effort with an incredible ride that gave him his first-ever stage victory and pulled him into third place within just 30 seconds of the overall lead.
Landis went on to take the overall lead in the time trial two days later and became the third American to win the Tour de France.
Landis vehemently denied the doping allegations and armed himself with lawyers declaring the testing and the results were flawed, which led to a strong opinion from his lawyer on Thursday.
"The majority panel's decision is a disappointment, but particularly so because it failed to address the joint impact of the many errors that the AFLD laboratory committed in rendering this false positive," said Maurice Suh, partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. "To take each of these errors singly, is to ignore the total falsity of the result. The majority panel has disregarded the testimony of Mr. Landis' experts, who are preeminent in their respective fields, without analyzing the impact of the errors on the final result. This is a miscarriage of justice."
The World Anti-Doping Agency weighed in on the decision.
"WADA, as the international independent organization responsible for promoting, coordinating and monitoring the global fight against doping in sport, will now thoroughly review the panel's decision," their statement read. "As with all doping cases under the jurisdiction of signatories of the World Anti-Doping Code (Code), WADA will assess the sanctioning process conducted."
Campbell agreed that Landis shouldn't have been stripped of the title.
"WADA should be writing rules that mandate the highest scientific standards rather than writing rules for a race to the bottom of scientific reliability so convictions can be easily obtained, as this case demonstrates," Campbell said. "Given the plethora of laboratory errors in this case, there was certainly no reliable scientific evidence introduced to find that Mr. Landis committed a doping offense."