(CBS/AP) Floyd Landis lost his expensive and explosive doping case Thursday when the arbitrators upheld the results of a test that showed the 2006 Tour de France champion used synthetic testosterone to fuel his spectacular comeback victory, The Associated Press has learned.
The decision leaves Landis with only one more outlet to possibly salvage his title, an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
During and arbitration hearing this past June, Landis vigorously denied using any performance-enhancing drugs, reports CBS News Radio's Steve Futterman.
But the panel has now ruled against Landis. This will also strip Landis of his 2006 Tour de France title, adds Futterman.
According to documents obtained by AP, and to be made public later Thursday, the vote was 2-1 to uphold the results, with lead arbitrator Patrice Brunet and Richard McLaren in the majority and Christopher Campbell dissenting.
The decision means Landis, who repeatedly has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, is subject to a two-year ban, retroactive to January 30, 2007.
If Landis doesn't appeal, he'll be the first person in the 105-year history of the race to lose the title because of a doping offense.
In its 84-page decision, the majority found the initial screening test to measure Landis' testosterone levels - the testosterone-to-epitestosterone test - was not done according to World Anti-Doping Agency rules.
But the more precise and expensive carbon-isotope ration analysis (IRMS), performed after a positive T-E test is recorded, was accurate, the arbitrators said, meaning "an anti-doping rule violation is established."
"As has been held in several cases, even where the T-E ratio has been held to be unreliable ... the IRMS analysis may still be applied," the majority wrote. "It has also been held that the IRMS analysis may stand alone as the basis" of a positive test for steroids.
The decision comes more than a year after Landis' stunning comeback in Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour, one that many people said couldn't be done without some kind of outside help. Flying to the lead near the start of a grueling Alpine stage, Landis regained nearly eight minutes against the leader, and went on to win the three-week race.
"Well, all I can say is that justice has been done, and that this is what the UCI felt was correct all along," Pat McQuaid, leader of cycling's world governing body, told The Associated Press by telephone. "We now await and see if he does appeal to CAS.
"It's not a great surprise considering how events have evolved. He got a highly qualified legal team who tried to baffle everybody with science and public relations. And in the end the facts stood up."
Landis insisted on a public hearing not only to prove his innocence, but to shine a spotlight on USADA and the rules it enforces and also establish a pattern of incompetence at the French lab where his urine was tested.
Although the panel rejected Landis' argument of a "conspiracy" at the Chatenay-Malabry lab, it did find areas of concern. They dealt with chain of command in controlling the urine sample, the way the tests were run on the machine, the way the machine was prepared and the "forensic corrections" done on the lab paperwork.
"... the Panel finds that the practices of the Lab in training its employees appears to lack the vigor the Panel would expect in the circumstances given the enormous consequences to athletes" of an adverse analytical finding, the decision said.
The majority repeatedly wrote that any mistakes made at the lab were not enough to dismiss the positive test, but also sent a warning.
"If such practices continue, it may well be that in the future, an error like this could result in the dismissal" of a positive finding by the lab.
In Campbell's opinion, Landis' case should have been one of those cases.
"In many instances, Mr. Landis sustained his burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt," Campbell wrote. "The documents supplied by LNDD are so filled with errors that they do not support an Adverse Analytical Finding. Mr. Landis should be found innocent."
And in at least one respect, Landis, who spent an estimated $2 million on his defense, was exonerated because the panel dismissed the T-E test. But in the arbitration process, a procedural flaw in the first test doesn't negate a positive result in follow-up tests.
"An arbitration panel is entitled to rely entirely on the IRMS analysis as an independent and sufficient basis for finding that an anti-doping rule violation has occurred," the decision said.
In his dissent, Campbell latched onto the T-E ratio test, among other things, as proof that the French lab couldn't be trusted.
"Also, the T-E ratio test is acknowledged as a simple test to run. The IRMS test is universally acknowledged as a very complicated test to run, requiring much skill. If the LNDD couldn't get the T-E ratio test right, how can a person have any confidence that LNDD got the much more complicated IRMS test correct?"
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