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Tour Champ Landis Failed Doping Test in Comeback

Tour de France champion Floyd Landis has tested positive for high levels of testosterone, according to a statement from his cycling team, Phonak. The test was reportedly conducted after Landis' comeback victory in the 17th stage of the race. Landis won the Tour just four days ago, succeeding seven-time winner Lance Armstrong.

But if a backup sample confirms the result, Landis could be the first rider in the history of cycling's top race to be stripped of his title for a doping offense.

Testosterone is a steroid that is both synthetic and naturally occurring. The tests showed that he has an abnormal ratio of the steroid.

Landis spoke to reporters via teleconference late Thursday, saying he wants his chance to be proven innocent.

"Cycling has a traditional way of trying people in the court of public opinion before they ever get a chance to do anything else," Landis said. "I can't stop that, but I'd like to be assumed innocent until proven guilty, since that's the way we do things in America."

For Landis, last week's stage 16 of the Tour de France was a disaster. The 30-year-old American appeared to have lost any chance of winning the race after a horrible, slow-motion performance in the mountains, where he tumbled from first place to eleventh, some eight minutes off the lead.

The next day, in what has been termed an epic performance, Landis made up roughly seven and a half minutes of the deficit. To journalists afterward, he said, "I needed to get eight minutes back, so I got angry."

Today, there is anger of a different kind in the cycling world, along with confusion and disappointment. The doping test Landis took after stage 17 has shown high levels of testosterone. Landis' Phonak team says it's awaiting the results of his backup, or "B" sample, before taking any action. It's very rare that B samples come back differently. If the result is confirmed, Phonak says it will fire Landis -- and he could lose his Tour de France title.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.