Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cyclist Floyd Landis Admits Doping, Alleges Use by Armstrong and Other


Floyd Landis, the American cyclist whose 2006 Tour De France victory was nullified after a positive doping test, has sent a series of emails to cycling officials and sponsors admitting to, and detailing, his systematic use of performance enhancing drugs during his career. The emails also claim that other riders and cycling officials allegedly participated in doping, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Floyd Landis toasts with a glass of champagne as he pedals during the final stage of the 93rd Tour de France cycling race in July 2006.

It's unclear how many emails Mr. Landis sent. Three emails, which are dated between April 30 and May 6, have been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Landis copied seven people on these three emails, including officials with USA Cycling and the International Cycling Union. Three people who have seen the emails and spoken to Mr. Landis about them say they are authentic.

Mr. Armstrong did not respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday evening. Mr. Armstrong has faced a number of doping accusations during his career, which he has denied. He has never been sanctioned.

Mr. Landis's charges couldn't be independently verified. Mr. Landis did not respond to a request for comment.

In the emails, he expressed frustration about the inability of antidoping officials to clean up the sport.

After the Tour De France stripped Mr. Landis of his 2006 victory for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone after one crucial stage of the race, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency gave him a two-year ban from the sport. From the moment the positive test was revealed, Mr. Landis has denied publicly ever using performance enhancing drugs.

The emails are particularly focused on American riders. Mr. Landis said in them that during his career, he and other American riders learned how to conduct blood transfusions, take the synthetic blood booster Erythropoietin, or EPO, and use steroids. Mr. Landis said he started using testosterone patches, then progressed to blood transfusions, EPO, and a liquid steroid taken orally.

In one of the emails, dated April 30 and addressed to Stephen Johnson, the president of USA Cycling, Mr. Landis said that Mr. Armstrong's longtime coach, Johan Bruyneel, introduced Mr. Landis to the use of steroid patches, blood doping and human growth hormone in 2002 and 2003, his first two years on the U.S. Postal Service team. He alleged Mr. Armstrong helped him understand the way the drugs worked. "He and I had lengthy discussions about it on our training rides during which time he also explained to me the evolution of EPO testing and how transfusions were now necessary due to the inconvenience of the new test," Mr. Landis claimed in the email. He claimed he was instructed by Mr. Bruyneel how to use synthetic EPO and steroids and how to carry out blood transfusions that doping officials wouldn't be able to detect. Mr. Bruyneel and Mr. Johnson could not be reached for comment.

In the same email, Mr. Landis wrote that after breaking his hip in 2003, he flew to Girona, Spain—a training hub for American riders—and had two half-liter units of blood extracted from his body in three-week intervals to be used later during the Tour de France. The extraction, Mr. Landis claimed, took place in Mr. Armstrong's apartment, where blood bags belonging to Mr. Armstrong and his then-teammate George Hincapie were kept in a refrigerator in Mr. Armstrong's closet. Mr. Landis said he was asked to check the temperature of the blood daily. According to Mr. Landis, Mr. Armstrong left for a few weeks and asked Mr. Landis to make sure the electricity didn't go off and ruin the blood. George Hincapie, through a spokesman, denied the allegations.

In the email sent on April 30 to Mr. Johnson, Mr. Landis said that in 2006, after leaving the U.S. Postal Service team for a team sponsored by Swiss hearing aide manufacturer Phonak, he said he told Andy Rihs, the team's owner, that he had been involved in a blood doping program in the past with his old team and wanted to continue doing so with Phonak. He said Mr. Rihs, who is the chairman of Sonova Holding AG, the Switzerland-based parent company for Phonak, agreed to pay for the same doping operations at Phonak. After Mr. Landis's positive test—which was for testosterone and not blood doping—the team disbanded in 2006. Mr. Rihs and a Sonova spokesman could not be reached for comment.

In addition to these allegations, Mr. Landis's emails called current anti-doping efforts "a charade," detailed how to use EPO without getting caught and claimed he helped former teammates Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie take EPO before one Tour of California race. Mr. Leipheimer and Mr. Zabriskie could not be reached for comment.

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