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Landis, French officials OK deal

Times Staff Writer

French authorities agreed Thursday to suspend their investigation of doping charges against Tour de France champion Floyd Landis after Landis agreed not to race in France for the rest of this year.

The decision will allow the California cyclist to focus on his appeal of charges brought under the international sports doping system and prosecuted by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

That appeal hearing is scheduled to open May 14 before a panel of three arbitrators. They are Christopher Campbell, a San Francisco lawyer and former Olympic wrestler, who was selected by Landis; Richard McLaren, a London, Ontario, lawyer selected by USADA, and Patrice Brunet, a Montreal lawyer chosen as the panel’s chairman by the other two arbitrators.

If the panel rules against him and he loses a further appeal to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport, Landis would face a two-year suspension from racing and the loss of his 2006 Tour de France title.

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The French national anti-doping agency, which is known by its initials AFLD, is empowered only to bar Landis from racing in France. AFLD had been scheduled to open its hearing Thursday in Paris, but Landis and international anti-doping officials had requested that the case be postponed until after the USADA hearing was finished.

Both investigations stem from the same accusation -- that Landis illicitly doped with testosterone during one stage of the 2006 Tour de France. Landis denies the contention, alleging that errors and sloppy procedures by the Paris anti-doping lab that tested his samples produced a false positive result.

AFLD said it would defer its investigation until no later than the end of June, as long as Landis complies with his agreement not to race in France.

The agreement will keep him out of the 2007 Tour de France, which is scheduled to begin July 7.

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A spokesman for Landis said the cyclist had planned to skip the Tour this year anyway to attend to his doping defense.

Meanwhile, sources confirmed Thursday that Landis had rejected a request by USADA to retest eight of his urine samples, including six from the 2006 Tour, that had previously been ruled negative for doping. A report of the request appeared in L’Equipe, a French sports journal.

The sources say USADA proposed that eight backup samples be subjected to a carbon isotope ratio test at the Paris anti-doping lab that conducted the original tests on Landis’ Tour de France samples. Landis’ defense, however, has questioned the lab’s conduct of the isotope test on those samples and challenged its interpretation of the results.

USADA did not respond to questions Thursday about its rationale for the request.

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michael.hiltzik@latimes.com


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