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Backup Landis test confirms adverse finding

PARIS Tour de France champion Floyd Landis backup urine sample confirmed high levels of testosterone, cycling s governing body said today, raising the prospect that he could lose his title.

Following the results of the B sample, Landis was fired by his Swiss team, Phonak. He also faces a two-year ban from USA Cycling, which is responsible for sanctions against the American rider.

The analysis of the sample B of Floyd Landis s urine has confirmed the result of an adverse analytical finding notified by the anti-doping laboratory of Paris on 26th July, following the analysis of the sample A, the International Cycling Union said, referring to the Chatenay-Malabry lab outside Paris.

Landis will be dismissed without notice for violating the teams internal Code of Ethics, Phonak said in a statement. Landis will continue to have legal options to contest the findings. However, this will be his personal affair, and the Phonak team will no longer be involved in that.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said Landis no longer was considered the race winner, but the decision to strip him of his title rests with the UCI.

It goes without saying that for us Floyd Landis is no longer the winner of the 2006 Tour de France, Prudhomme told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. Our determination is even stronger now to fight against doping and to defend this magnificent sport.

Prudhomme said runner-up Oscar Pereiro of Spain would be the likely new winner.

We can t imagine a different outcome, Prudhomme said.

The confirmed test sets off what could now be months of appeals and arguments by Landis, who claims the positive finding was due to naturally high testosterone levels. He has repeatedly declared his innocence and vowed to fight the allegations and did so again today.

I have never taken any banned substance, including testosterone, Landis said in a statement. I was the strongest man at the Tour de France, and that is why I am the champion.

I will fight these charges with the same determination and intensity that I bring to my training and racing. It is now my goal to clear my name and restore what I worked so hard to achieve.

If found guilty, Landis would become the first winner in the 103-year history of cycling s premier race to lose his Tour crown over doping allegations.

Roberto Heras was stripped of his 2005 Spanish Vuelta title and suspended for two years after he tested positive for the performance enhancer EPO. The title was awarded to Denis Menchov of Russia.

Heras and Landis were both former teammates of Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour winner who retired after his final win in 2005.

Landis lawyer is preparing to take the case to arbitration, said a statement issued by his spokesman, Michael Henson.

It s incredibly disappointing, said three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond by phone Saturday from the starting line at the Pan Mass Challenge in Sturbridge, Mass. I don t think (Landis) has much chance at all to try to prove his innocence.

The two-tiered analysis at the Chatenay-Malabry lab, which is accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, is designed to eliminate the chance for mistakes in the first test.

Henson said this week that the rider had tested positive for an testosterone-epitestosterone ratio of 11:1 well above the 4:1 limit.

On Friday, Henson said Landis was in the San Diego area, but no further details of his whereabouts were given.

The tests were conducted on urine samples drawn July 20 after Landis stage victory in a grueling Alpine leg of the Tour, when he clawed back nearly eight minutes against then-leader Pereiro and back into contention to win the three-week race.

The UCI is expected to refer the case to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for handling. The process could take months, possibly with appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Landis Spanish lawyer, Jose Maria Buxeda, has said he still believes Landis will prove his innocence.

He s pretty sure we will be able to prove ... that it is due to natural causes, Buxeda said.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and

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