|Floyd Landis still faces a possible 2-year suspension. (TINA FINEBERG/ASSOCIATED PRESS)|
Landis will bypass France
French postpone doping decision
PARIS -- Floyd Landis will skip the Tour de France -- and all races in France this year -- as part of an agreement with French doping authorities in a case that could strip him of cycling's most prestigious title.
Last year's Tour champion had hip-replacement surgery 4 1/2 months ago and was unlikely to have competed in this year's Tour. He agreed yesterday not to race again in France until 2008, and in return the French anti-doping agency postponed its decision on whether to suspend him from competing in France for a maximum of two years because of a positive doping test.
"Floyd is pleased that the AFLD has agreed with his counsel's request that they suspend this proceeding," spokesman Michael Henson said.
Earlier, AFLD president Pierre Bordry said Landis "understood perfectly that if he didn't act today, we would start the procedure immediately."
Landis will go before the US Anti-Doping Agency May 14 and, following that, the AFLD will deliver its verdict in June.
"We will let Landis defend himself as he wishes," Bordry said.
The American, who has denied wrongdoing, didn't appear at yesterday's meeting of the AFLD's nine-member panel, but sent a lawyer who read his request.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press, Landis said the parallel cases in France and the United States were complicating matters. He asked the French agency to hold off until after the US agency rules.
"In this case, and in order to avoid any misunderstanding, I agree to voluntarily not participate in any professional or amateur cycling event in France until December 31, 2007, and in particular the Tour de France 2007," Landis said in the letter.
Bordry said Landis deserves to be heard by the USADA. But Bordry echoed Tour de France president Christian Prudhomme's sentiment that the American agency was dragging out its process.
Landis's urine sample after a 17th-stage win in last year's Tour de France 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. Prudhomme has said the Tour no longer considers him the winner.
Landis argues the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory that carried out the tests is unreliable.