UCI starts legal proceedings against Floyd Landis
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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

UCI starts legal proceedings against Floyd Landis

by Shane Stokes at 10:00 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Swiss court action begins

Floyd Landis Lance ArmstrongOne year after he sent information to USA Cycling and began a series of claims of doping against his former US Postal Service team, Floyd Landis has learned that he will face legal action by the UCI.

Landis has said that Lance Armstrong, the US Postal Service team and others were involved in the systematic use of banned substances, and that former UCI President Hein Verbruggen helped cover up a positive test for EPO by Lance Armstrong in the 2001 Tour de Suisse.

He also said that the UCI protected the Texan and several other important riders against doping cases, thus ensuring that the big names continued to race and bring money into the sport.

The UCI denied the claims and has said that it will now take action. “The International Cycling Union (UCI), its current President, Mr Pat McQuaid, and one of its former Presidents, Mr Hein Verbruggen, have lodged a case in the Swiss courts against Mr Floyd Landis regarding repeated, serious attacks against their characters,” it said in a release.

“By this step, made necessary by numerous unacceptable public statements by Mr Landis, the UCI is seeking to defend the integrity of the cycling movement as a whole against the accusations of a rider who, by breaching the Anti-doping Rules, caused cycling serious harm.”

Landis’s statements against Armstrong and others helped drive a multinational doping investigation. In the US, that inquiry began with the FDA and USADA looking into the claims. Since then, the investigation has grown considerably, with other agencies such as the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, plus both the civil and criminal divisions of the Department of Justice becoming involved.

That inquiry also expanded beyond US borders, partly overlapping with other doping investigations and also sparking off new activity. One side effect has been a deeper scrutiny of the controversial doctor Michelle Ferrari’s activities in Europe. Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport recently revealed that investigators are now looking at his financial dealings, providing a clear paper trail to those who may have been involved in illegal activities. They are said to have detected evidence of cash transfers from the US, and have reportedly frozen some bank accounts.

Ferrari worked with Armstrong’s from the mid 90s onwards and during his Tour reign, the US Postal Service team reportedly had an exclusive arrangement with the doctor. He is said to have been paid a large sum to work with that team alone during several seasons; this may in time prove to be relevant in terms of the talk of cash transfers from the US.

Since Landis’s claims were made, the UCI has appeared to have changed its stance on the US Postal Service team. Last May McQuaid was adamant that he was lying. “I think Landis is in a very sad situation and I feel sorry for the guy because I don’t accept anything he says as true,” he said.

“This is a guy who has been condemned in court, who has stood up in court and stated that he never saw any doping in cycling. He’s written a book saying he won the Tour de France clean. Where does that leave his credibility? He has an agenda and is obviously out to seek revenge.”

Earlier this year, the Irishman said something quite different to Cycling Weekly. “A lot of the stuff he says in relation to what went on in those years is probably true,” he admitted.

“There was a lot of doping doing on in those teams in those years. If it [the federal investigation] proves that the US Postal team were involved in a lot of doping, it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me. In those days it was possible to beat the system.”

During his presidency, Verbruggen maintained that cycling was clean, and criticised those such as Giles Delion and Graeme Obree who suggested otherwise. Subsequent events have shown that was not the case. This prompted his successor to acknowledge that fact, which has in turn raised questions about how effective the UCI’s anti-doping strategy was then.

Providing it progresses, a court case involving Landis could further turn the spotlight onto this troubled era of the sport's history.

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