Floyd Landis faces legal action

AIGLE, Switzerland -- Floyd Landis is facing legal action from the International Cycling Union and its current and former leaders over his allegations of doping in the sport.

The governing body said Wednesday it was joined by president Pat McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen to pursue Landis over his "unacceptable" claims.

The UCI, McQuaid and Verbruggen "have lodged a case in the Swiss courts against Mr. Floyd Landis regarding repeated, serious attacks against their characters," it said in a statement.

"By this step, made necessary by numerous unacceptable public statements by Mr. Landis, the UCI is seeking to defend the integrity of the cycling movement as a whole against the accusations of a rider who, by breaching the anti-doping rules, caused cycling serious harm," the Swiss-based body said.

Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping, told a German television channel last November that the UCI had acted corruptly and protected some star riders from doping claims.

"All I can hope is that cycling fans are starting to understand why I was afraid to tell the truth five years ago after winning the Tour de France," Landis said in a statement emailed to ESPN.com Wednesday. He said he has not been formally served or otherwise notified of any lawsuit.

In a telephone interview with ESPN.com's Bonnie D. Ford on Wednesday night, Landis said he was "baffled" at how any such lawsuit could go forward in Switzerland.

"I never made a statement about this outside California," he said.

He added that the UCI's announcement prompted offers of assistance from several lawyers he has worked with previously and said he is prepared to fight back, including, if necessary, countersuing and taking depositions from riders and cycling officials who would corroborate his accusations.

"I don't see any upside for them," Landis said of the UCI's legal action, noting that he remains unemployed and broke and thus unable to pay any kind of monetary settlement. He said he would be reluctant to drag other riders into the crossfire and would do so only if forced to.

He speculated that the federation might be angling to get him under oath in a deposition to see what evidence he might have given to federal investigators probing organized doping in American cycling, particularly on the U.S. Postal Service teams where he rode for Lance Armstrong's Tour de France-winning campaigns.

Landis, who retired from professional cycling earlier this year, said he is confident that numerous witnesses have backed up his observations and allegations in testimony before the federal grand jury hearing evidence in that case.

"If [the UCI] is trying to intimidate me, they're not intimidating me at all," he said.

In February, lawyers for McQuaid and Verbruggen wrote to the retired American racer giving him 15 days to withdraw the claims or face legal action.

Verbruggen, who led the UCI from 1991 to 2005, told The Associated Press after Landis made the claims that he was "kindly invited to prove what he says."

One year ago, Landis made allegations of widespread drug use in cycling, which fueled an ongoing U.S. federal investigation that has targeted Armstrong.

Information from ESPN.com's Bonnie D. Ford and The Associated Press was used in this report.