Landis maintains innocence at trial

Landis maintains innocence at trial
By Reuters

20/05/2007 at 07:40Updated

Tour de France winner Floyd Landis repeatedly denied taking performance-enhancing drugs during his racing career when he finally testified at his nine-day hearing at Pepperdine University.

Landis, fighting to keep his 2006 Tour title after testing positive for the banned male sex hormone testosterone, said the idea of cheating was against his principles.

"To me, bicycle racing was rewarding for the pure fact that I was proud of myself when I put the work into it and I could see results and get something out of it," the 31-year-old American told the panel.

"As long as I know I earned what I got, that was satisfactory. People are defined by their principles and how they make their decisions.

"Obviously it's always fun to win but nevertheless it's a matter of who I am and it wouldn't serve any purpose to cheat and win the Tour because I wouldn't be proud of it.

"That's just not what the goal was from the beginning," added the American, who has used cortisone to help alleviate pain following a hip injury in October 2002 with the blessing of cycling authorities.

Responding to questions by his lawyer, Howard Jacobs, Landis denied taking synthetic testosterone during the Tour de France or using any banned substance during his entire racing career.

Landis, wearing a grey suit and yellow tie, finally took the stand after patiently watching others give testimony over the first five days at the hearing.

In a 75-minute testimony, he spoke about his former business manager's menacing phone call to three-times Tour de France champion Greg LeMond and the confusion when news of his positive test first broke last July.

Landis said he was in the same hotel room on Wednesday night when Will Geoghegan phoned LeMond anonymously and threatened to reveal the former cyclist had been sexually abused as a child.

"It [the call] was very short and I wasn't sitting beside Will, I was on the other end of the table," Landis added.

"At first I thought he wasn't talking to anybody and then it was over."

Landis said there were few things he could imagine that were worse than what LeMond went through.

"I cannot even put words to it," he said.

Landis fired Geoghegan after LeMond rocked the hearing by revealing he had been sexually abused and the Landis camp had used that information to try and prevent him testifying.

Landis has consistently denied using performance-enhancing drugs and said he struggled to come to terms with the news he had tested positive after that Tour's 17th stage.

"I didn't have an explanation for it and, when the world finds you have tested positive, it's a disaster," he said.

"There was no place to hide. I knew that things like that are not kept confidential and I had to tell my wife, which was the hardest part."

At his hearing, three arbitration experts will determine whether Landis injected himself with testosterone.

If found guilty of doping, he faces a two-year suspension and the possibility of becoming the first Tour winner to be stripped of his title.

However, the American could take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Although the Malibu hearing is scheduled to end on Wednesday next week, closing arguments will be presented by both parties at a later date with the time and venue yet to be determined.