Tour de France Is Hit with a Doping Scandal Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Tour de France, a grueling three-week bicycle race that is one of Europe’s most popular sporting events, was hit with a major drug scandal in 2006. American cyclist Floyd Landis, who won the race, was stripped of his championship and banned from riding for two years after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Landis maintained his innocence and appealed the rulings, but to no avail.

Summary of Event

Throughout its more than one-hundred-year history, the Tour de France, competitive cycling’s most prestigious event, has been plagued by scandals and doping incidents. Early tour riders were believed to have consumed alcohol and used other substances to dull the pain of competing in endurance cycling. Riders also began using drugs and other substances to increase their performance rather than dull their senses. Organizing bodies, such as the Tour and the International Cycling Union, followed with policies designed to combat the illegal practices. The death of the British champion Tom Simpson on Mount Ventoux during the 1967 tour led to the implementation of drug testing policies. [kw]Tour de France Is Hit with a Doping Scandal (July 26, 2006) [kw]Doping Scandal, Tour de France Is Hit with a (July 26, 2006) Landis, Floyd Tour de France Cycling Landis, Floyd Tour de France Cycling [g]Europe; [g]France; [c]Sports;July 26, 2006: Tour de France Is Hit with a Doping Scandal[03630] [c]Drugs;July 26, 2006: Tour de France Is Hit with a Doping Scandal[03630] [c]Corruption;July 26, 2006: Tour de France Is Hit with a Doping Scandal[03630] [c]Medicine and health care;July 26, 2006: Tour de France Is Hit with a Doping Scandal[03630] [c]EthicsJuly 26, 2006: Tour de France Is Hit with a Doping Scandal[03630] Simpson, Tom

Floyd Landis at a press conference in Madrid, Spain, on July 28, 2006.

(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

American professional cyclist Floyd Landis, who joined the Phonak Cycling team after riding for several years with seven-time Tour de France champion Armstrong, Lance Lance Armstrong, another American, started the 2006 season impressively with overall wins in the Amgen Tour in California and the prestigious Paris-Nice race. Landis won for a third time at the Ford Tour de Georgia just prior to start of the Tour de France. Despite these early successes, Landis was not a favorite to win cycling’s most prestigious race.

On the eve of the tour’s start, July 1, nine riders, including pre-race favorites Jan Ulrich from Germany and Italy’s Ivan Basso, were disqualified. Their names turned up on a list of fifty-six cyclists who allegedly had contact with a Spanish doctor at the center of a doping probe in Spain. During the early stages of the tour, Landis was able to keep up with the pace set by the riders of the Rabobank team. Landis positioned himself in the overall lead until stage 13, when he and his team started a breakaway led by his former teammate, Oscar Pereiro of Spain, who took the overall lead by 89 seconds. In stage 15, on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez, Landis outrode Pereiro by almost two minutes and regained the fabled yellow jersey (worn by the tour leader) and a 10-second overall lead in the standings. Landis performed poorly during stage 16, as he fell from first to eleventh place. Pereiro took the overall lead and was eight minutes ahead of Landis with only three stages remaining.

In the following day’s stage 17, Landis amazed the cycling world with a breakaway attack considered “one of the most epic days of cycling ever seen.” At one point he led Pereiro by 9 minutes 4 seconds and ultimately won the stage. His win in this stage took more than 7 minutes from Pereiro’s overall lead. The next stage was a 57-kilometer individual time trial. Landis’s strength in time trials worked for him in this stage as he came well within striking distance of regaining the tour lead. He finished third in the time trial of stage 19, which put him 89 seconds ahead of Pereiro and 3 minutes 31 seconds ahead of Spanish rider Carlos Sastre, reclaiming the yellow jersey with a lead of 59 seconds. On July 23, Landis retained the lead through stage 20, the famous procession into Paris to end the tour, by 57 seconds.

Only days after winning the tour, Landis’s team announced that its top rider had tested positive, after stage 17, for an unusually high ratio of the hormone testosterone to the hormone epitestosterone (T/E ratio). Under World Anti-Doping Agency (WDA) regulations, a ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone greater than 4:1 is considered a positive result. Any rider found to have these hormones in their system, at this ratio or greater, is to be disqualified from a race and suspended from racing for two years. Landis denied that he was doping and placed faith in a second test using his backup, or B, sample. Testing had been performed by the French government’s antidoping clinical laboratory, the National Laboratory for Doping Detection (LNDD). Following the reported positive result on his A sample on July 26, Landis suggested that the results had been improperly released under the rules of the International Cycling Union (UCI). Phonak Cycling announced that Landis would be dismissed if the backup sample also tested positive. The backup sample did test positive as well, and Landis was fired from his team on August 5.

Under UCI regulations, the determination of whether or not a cyclist violated any rules must be made by the cyclist’s national federation, in this case USA Cycling, which ultimately transferred the case to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Landis claimed that he was not guilty of using banned performance-enhancing drugs. He argued that the processing of the A and B urine samples did not meet the established WDA criteria for a positive doping offense. Landis maintained the positive results on the B sample came from a sample number not assigned to him. He also claimed that the same two technicians analyzed both the original and the second validating samples. International laboratory standards forbid the same individuals from participating in both tests to prevent them from validating their own findings.

Impact

On May 14, 2007, the USADA and Landis began arbitration. In a bitterly contested nine-day hearing, Landis and his lawyers insisted that the French lab did not follow WDA rules in testing his urine samples. A three-person panel agreed with them, in part. The panel’s eighty-four-page decision concluded the presence of problems with the way the French lab conducted some of its tests, filled out its paperwork, and handled the urine samples. Nevertheless, two of the three panelists concluded that the lab errors in question were not significant enough to dismiss the positive test. On September 20, Landis was stripped of his Tour de France title and suspended from cycling competition for two years. Second-place rider Pereiro became the official winner of the 2006 tour.

Landis appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, for his last chance at appeal. The hearings opened in New York in March, 2008. On June 30, the CAS announced from Switzerland that it was upholding the September decision to ban Landis for two years.

The Landis doping scandal affected the overall popularity of bicycle racing in the United States, placing the world’s premier cycling event under a dark cloud. Fans and the media have become more cynical, and businesses are reconsidering whether it is worthwhile to invest in the sport as sponsors of team or events. The governing bodies of cycling around the world have promised more assertiveness in cleaning up the corruption. Landis, Floyd Tour de France Cycling

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hood, Andrew, and John Wilcockson. The Tour de France 2006: Triumph and Turmoil for Floyd Landis. Boulder, Colo.: Velo Press, 2006. An analysis of the race that covers every aspect of the grueling three-week event with maps, stage reports, and profiles of the riders. Photographs enhance the visual experience of the road race.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Landis, Floyd, and Loren Mooney. Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France. New York: Simon Spotlight, 2007. Told in Landis’s own words, this memoir is a powerful indictment of the unchecked governing bodies of cycling, who he believes have compromised the integrity of the sport as a whole.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Thompson, Christopher S. The Tour de France: A Cultural History. 2006. New ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. This new edition, with an updated preface, explores the cultural history of the Tour de France. Includes discussion of the doping scandals that have plagued the tour from its early days into the twenty-first century.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Walsh, David. From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour De France. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007. Explores the many facets of the cycling doping scandals in the United States and abroad. Examines how performance-enhancing drugs can infiltrate a premier sports event and why athletes succumb to the pressures to use them. Walsh conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with key figures in international cycling.

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