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Landis asks France to delay case

The Tour de France champion, who is accused of doping, hopes to avoid fighting separate charges in two countries at same time.

January 27, 2007|Michael A. Hiltzik | Times Staff Writer

The defense team for U.S. cyclist Floyd Landis has asked a French anti-doping agency to postpone its scheduled proceedings against the 2006 Tour de France champion until after his appeal of doping charges brought by international authorities is complete, a spokesman for Landis said Friday.

The request parallels one made by the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA, which supervises the enforcement of sports doping regulations worldwide but cannot force a sovereign government to play by its rules.

WADA President Dick Pound said this week that his agency had asked the French in December to suspend their proceedings. He said "they seem ready to do that, although without renouncing their judicial rights."

But the Landis defense said it does not expect the French agency, known by its initials AFLD, to announce a decision until the day of the scheduled hearing, Feb. 8. At that time, AFLD could open the hearing as a formality but move to postpone further action. Landis does not plan to attend.

Landis is appealing a doping charge brought by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and the International Cycling Union under WADA regulations. The USADA case, like AFLD's, stems from an allegation that Landis illicitly doped with testosterone during the 2006 Tour de France.

He denies the charge and contends that WADA's Paris laboratory mishandled his urine samples from the race and botched its tests, producing a false positive reading. No date has been set for a hearing on Landis's appeal of the USADA case to a panel of arbitrators.

Landis faces a two-year suspension from competition and the loss of his Tour de France title if the arbitrators uphold USADA's charge. The AFLD, meanwhile, can bar him from racing in France.

AFLD's proceeding complicates Landis' case from the standpoint of the cyclist and WADA. For Landis, it represents a costly distraction from the USADA proceeding.

"We believe it's strongly in Floyd's interest to not have to defend two actions simultaneously in two different countries," said Maurice Suh of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who is handling the defense in the French case.

WADA, meanwhile, has been striving to "harmonize" sports doping regulations and procedures across the globe by asking government agencies and sports organizations to comply with its code of rules and regulations and its procedural system. The French, however, have reserved the right to pursue their own remedies when cases involve French sporting events.

"We perceive this as a gross failure of harmonization, " said Michael Henson, a spokesman for Landis.

The parallel proceedings could produce turmoil in the cycling world if they reach opposite conclusions.

If his USADA case is upheld but he prevails before AFLD, Landis could be barred from international competition but permitted to compete in France. Or he could be cleared to compete internationally, yet barred from the Tour de France, the world's premier cycling race.

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michael.hiltzik@latimes.com

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