NEW YORK -- Floyd Landis could be banned from racing in France for two years if the country's anti-doping agency issues a maximum penalty Thursday for his positive doping test at last year's Tour de France.
The American cyclist will not attend the hearing but will be represented by his lawyers, Landis' spokesman Michael Henson said Wednesday in a conference call.
"There's not any of us who is against anti-doping agencies,"
Landis said. "What we hope for is a more American system. They
don't want to provide some of the rights that would be provided to
even the worst criminals in our country."
Landis' lawyers can present arguments to the nine-member panel,
which includes French magistrates. The agency's president, Philippe
Bordry, said Landis would receive a fair hearing.
"It's not because someone is positive that he must be
automatically suspended," Bordry said. "The rights of the defense
are very important."
Under French law, the agency has the right to "sanction by one
or two years suspension on French soil," Bordry said. That would
exclude Landis from this year's Tour and other events.
After a 2006 Tour de France stage win, Landis' sample was found
to contain elevated testosterone to epitestosterone levels. He
risks being the first rider in the 104-year history of the race to
be stripped of his title, and Tour director Christian Prudhomme has
said the Tour no longer considers him the winner.
Landis has denied any wrongdoing and argues the Chatenay-Malabry
laboratory, which carried out the tests, is unreliable.
"For the root of the cause of this, I don't know if malice is
involved, but clearly there was incompetence," Landis said
Wednesday night at a "town-hall style" fundraiser for the Floyd
Fairness Fund in New York. "I have no reason to believe there is
any sort of conspiracy. I think better of people than that. But I
Henson and Landis' medical adviser, Arnie Baker, said
significant errors were made by the French lab in the
transportation, analysis and outcome of Landis' urine sample. They
claimed Landis' sample was contaminated and said the testing
procedures were unreliable.
They also maintained that Landis has been "subject to
fundamentally unfair treatment by the anti-doping organizations and
international sports federations."
Landis is working on his defense and his
fitness, recovering from a hip replacement 4½ months ago.
"Racing again? I most certainly have the focus and the dream,
and I love to race my bike. It's sad I won't be racing this year;
it's unlikely," Landis said. "Something good has to come out of
it. We're trying to change the system, and that is taking as much
energy and focus as I put into racing. When that goal is achieved,
I'll go back to my original dream, which is winning races."