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French lab begins testing Landis' 'B' sample

PARIS -- Dehydration is the latest possible reason offered
for Tour de France winner Floyd Landis' elevated testosterone
levels.
"Maybe a combination of dehydration, maximum effort," said Jose Maria Buxeda, one of Landis' Spanish lawyers, after testing began Thursday on the cyclist's
backup doping sample.

But that defense was flatly rejected by one of the world's top
anti-doping officials.

"In 25 years of experience of testing testosterone ... such a
huge increase in the level of testosterone cannot be accepted to
come from any natural factors," said Prof. Christiane Ayotte,
director of Montreal's anti-doping laboratory.

"If dehydration was the case, then marathon runners would be
testing positive all the time. Tennis players would be testing
positive all the time. Dehydration is a medical condition that
requires hospitalization. It has been invoked in the past, but not
one case -- to my knowledge -- has been successful in this
argument."

Speaking at the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory, which is conducting the analysis, Buxeda said he expects the "B" sample to confirm the original positive result, which showed a testosterone imbalance in a July 20 urine specimen.

The results are expected Saturday.

However, Buxeda, who was contracted to protect Landis' interests in Europe, contends a second positive sample would not be
enough to find Landis guilty. He also seemed to question the
validity of the French lab, which is accredited by the World
Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee.

"I wouldn't say that they know. I would say they can presume.
They do not have the certainty," Buxeda said.

By contrast, Landis is "certain" he hasn't ingested banned
substances, Buxeda said.

If the "B" sample is positive, the results will be sent to the
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which would handle the case.

If found guilty, Landis would be stripped of the Tour de France
title and banned for two years, although the process could take
several months to clear any appeals.

Since July 27, when Phonak was notified of the positive doping
test, the cyclist and his defense team have offered varying
explanations as to why Landis turned up a
testosterone-epitestosterone ratio of 11:1 in a July 20 test after
he sped his way back into contention after winning the tough Stage
17 of the three-week Tour. That 11:1 ratio is nearly three times
above the 4:1 limit.

Other potential causes offered have been cortisone shots taken
to ease pain in Landis' degenerating hip; drinking beer and whiskey
the night before stage 17; thyroid medication; or his natural
metabolism.

The latest theory -- dehydration -- appears to contrast with
events.

Landis pushed ahead at the 45-mile mark and then rode alone for
the remainder of the 124.3-mile ride.

A jubilant Landis conceded afterward that riding in front for
hours had constituted an "advantage," because it meant he was
constantly within reach of his Phonak team car.

Even under a baking sun, he had far more opportunity to drink
fluids than had he been trapped alongside others in the main pack,
where it takes longer for team cars to reach cyclists.

As he rode up the Alps, Landis regularly splashed his face with
water and gulped liquids regularly provided by the Phonak car only
yards behind.

"It was nice to be alone," Landis said after the stage. "It
was an advantage."

He also said he planned to drink beer that night.

Allegations that the Chatenay-Malabry lab might not be reliable
also were made last week by seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong.

He previously said his urine samples might have been mishandled
by the lab, defending himself against allegations by French sports
daily L'Equipe that he tested positive for EPO during the 1999
Tour.

Last Friday, Armstrong told The Associated Press that he "can't
help but be aware the lab that found this suspicious reading is the
same one that was at the center of the L'Equipe affair."

But WADA chief Dick Pound maintained testing in an accredited
lab is "properly done."

Earlier this week, a New York Times report cited a source from
the International Cycling Union saying that a second analysis of
Landis' "A" sample by carbon isotope ratio testing had detected
synthetic testosterone -- meaning it was ingested. Landis' personal
doctor, Brent Kay, also confirmed to the New York Times that the
test found the man-made hormone.

On Wednesday, U.S. attorney Howard Jacobs, who also represents
Landis, accused the UCI of a breach of ethics for leaking results.

"I am troubled by the actions of the UCI and how they have
spoken out about this case, which is in direct contravention of the
UCI's own rules and the World Anti-Doping Code," Jacobs said.

The carbon isotope testing method, however, received strong
backing from the director of the Drug Control Center at London's
King's College.

Calling it "the most definitive measure we have at this time,"
David Cowan added that "if there is a synthetic found [in the
sample] than any defense is difficult to prove."