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Published: Friday, 7/28/2006

Landis says testosterone levels that triggered drug test are natural


MADRID Floyd Landis said the high testosterone that showed up in a drug screening at the Tour de France is the result of his natural metabolism not doping of any kind and he will undergo more tests to prove it.

We will explain to the world why this is not a doping case but a natural occurrence, Landis said at a news conference Friday, his first public appearance since the test result cast doubt on one of the most stirring comeback wins in Tour history.

Landis said in a Thursday teleconference that he had no idea what caused his elevated testosterone levels following the race s 17th stage last week, where he made his heroic charge into the Alps. But on Friday, he was adamant that the reading was the result of his natural physiology.

I would like to make absolutely clear that I am not in any doping process, said Landis, wearing a baseball cap turned backward and a white shirt with the name of his Phonak team. I ask not to be judged by anyone, much less sentenced by anyone.

Landis is still awaiting results from a backup sample, which will clear him if found to be negative. Switzerland-based Phonak said it would ask that the backup sample be tested in the next few days.

Landis s lawyer, Luis Sanz, said he fully expected the backup test to come back with the same result, since the elevated testosterone was produced naturally by Landis s body. The 30-year-old cyclist said Friday that he would undergo additional testing to prove it.

I will procede to under go all these tests ... to accredit that the levels that I ve had during the Tour and all my career are natural and produced by my own organism, he said.

Until those tests are conducted, Landis said, I ask not to be judged, or much less to be sentenced by anyone.

If ultimately proven guilty, he could be stripped of the Tour title and fired from the team.

The team suspended Landis after the International Cycling Union notified it Wednesday that he had an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone when his test was taken last Thursday, the day he staked his comeback in the Alps.

Landis, a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, said he was shocked when told of the initial positive result. He said he had been tested six other times during the tour, and many other times during the year.

His voice was subdued and at times downcast on the Thursday call, when he said he expected to clear his name but never to truly shake the disgrace of doping. But Landis turned defiant in his Friday appearance, chastising the media for implying that he was accused of doping and defending himself as an honest competitor who devoted his life to his sport.

I declare convincingly and categorically that my winning the Tour de France has been exclusively due to many years of training and my complete devotion to cycling, he said. I was the strongest guy. I deserved to win, and I m proud of it.

Landis positive test rocked the cycling world, already under a cloud following a wide-ranging doping investigation in Spain that led to the barring of several of the world s leading cyclists from the Tour.

On the eve of the Tour s start, nine riders including pre-race favorites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso were ousted, implicated in a Spanish doping investigation. Their names turned up on a list of 56 cyclists who allegedly had contact with a Spanish at the center of the probe.

Landis was not implicated in that investigation.

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