Floyd Landis' doping allegations rock the Tour of California

I don't know what to even say about this new story. I am stunned.



Reporting from Visalia, Calif.-- The cycling community gathered in this farming town for Thursday's start of Stage 5 of the Tour of California was left stunned by allegations made by cyclist Floyd Landis that seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and other top American riders were involved in blood doping before 2006.

Landis, who lost his own 2006 Tour de France title because of a failed doping test and was subsequently banned for two years despite years of denials, not only has admitted his own use of performance enhancing drugs during races but also reportedly sent e-mails to cycling and anti-doping officials detailing how Armstrong, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie schemed to engage in blood doping. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the allegations on their web site late Wednesday night.

All the accused riders are in the Amgen Tour of California, which starts at 10:45 a.m. and travels to south to Bakersfield.

A spokesman for Team RadioShack said team manager Johan Bruyneel, whom Landis accused of teaching him the ins and outs of blood doping, Armstrong and Leipheimer will speak to reporters before Thursday's stage gets underway. Armstrong, however, briefly told reporters Thursday morning that the allegations are not based in fact and denied ever being involved in doping or using performance enhancing drugs.

A spokesman for Dave Zabriskie's Garmin-Transitions team also said a statement would be issued later this morning and a spokesman for BMC Racing, Hincapie's current team, said he would issue a statement about the allegations.

The World Anti-Doping Agency issued this statement Thursday:

"WADA is aware of the serious allegations made by Mr. Landis. We are very interested in learning more about this matter and we will liaise with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and any other authority with appropriate jurisdiction to get to the heart of the issues raised. WADA looks forward to these further investigations and enquiries by those responsible.

"Generally speaking, WADA encourages everyone with knowledge of banned practices in sport, including athletes who were caught cheating and who denied the evidence for years, to be forthcoming in disclosing the information they may have to the proper authorities. This will further contribute to clean sport and strengthen existing anti-doping programs for the good of clean athletes worldwide."

Until the Wall Street Journal story and in a later interview with ESPN, Landis had fought the charge that he failed a drug test while riding to the 2006 Tour de France championship.

Landis, who sent e-mails to the USA Cycling Federation and the International Cycling Federation detailing the allegations against his former teammates, had taken his appeals process all the way to the World Court of Arbitration. He ultimately served a two-year suspension and has been trying to get on another world class cycling team, but without success.

Landis even wrote a book, "Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France," that was published in 2007. He asserted in the book that he never used performance enhancing drugs.

The cycling publication VeloNews said it received a copy of an e-mail sent to USA Cycling President Steve Johnson in which Landis accuses Armstrong, Hincapie, Leipheimer, Michael Barry and Jose Luis Rubiera (the latter two also rode for Bruyneel).

Repeated attempts to reach Landis went unanswered, and Johnson was not immediately available for comment.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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