Landis finally to take the stand

MALIBU, Calif. &

Finally, it's Floyd.

After sitting quietly at the defense table for five days, Floyd Landis will take the witness stand Saturday in the most-anticipated moment of an arbitration hearing he hopes will confirm he's the Tour de France champion.

The world will get to hear Landis' version of events that led to a positive test for synthetic testosterone &

and he'll finally get a chance to put some good spin on a case that has not been going well, at least from a public-relations standpoint.

His testimony should refocus the issue away from the frenzy created by three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond's bombshells. On Thursday, LeMond revealed he'd told Landis he was sexually abused as a child and that Landis' manager, Will Geoghegan, used that secret to try to intimidate LeMond and keep him from testifying.

It appeared to be quite a demoralizing day for Landis, though his father, Paul, said he was surprised by his son's response.

"I thought he was very optimistic," Paul Landis said. "We're still encouraged."

After months of barnstorming the country professing his innocence and raising money for his defense, now Landis gets to tell his story under oath. After initially blaming his positive test on everything from dehydration to too much whiskey the night before the test to his natural metabolism, Landis can explain the reasons for testing positive. Perhaps he'll delve into what he has called the corrupt way the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and its brethren in the anti-doping industry do business.

Last week, he said he thought the hearings would serve to prove his innocence and dismantle USADA, all at the same time.

His folks and wife, who have sat stoically through these five days, should be on hand again. And maybe the hearing room, essentially void of public spectators since Monday, will fill up, too.

The schedule, with Landis' name on it, came out at the end of a long day of testimony Friday, the highlight of which was testimony from midlevel pro cyclist Joe Papp. Papp said he was a drug cheat and described how synthetic testosterone helped him recover in multi-day stage races like the Tour.

Papp, who received a two-year doping suspension that hadn't been made public until his testimony, was brought to the witness stand by USADA. The agency used the testimony to refute earlier claims made by Landis' attorneys that testosterone couldn't help Landis win the 2006 Tour and that he'd be crazy to use it if he knew he might be tested.

"It's such a false statement that it makes me angry," Papp said. "Why am I here? I'm not getting anything out of being here. I have everything to lose from being here."

Papp said he tested positive for metabolized testosterone last May at a race in Turkey. After planning to fight the allegations "because it's the expected thing to do," he instead accepted a provisional suspension a few months ago. His two-year ban became official Thursday.

Reaching into his jacket pocket to show a packet of the testosterone gel he used, Papp refuted both Landis theories &

saying it was easy to stay below the threshold of a positive test with the gel and claiming the gel helped him greatly in recovering between stages.

"You can compete in UCI-sanctioned stage races like a 2,000-kilometer-long race with drug testing every day, and you can race and win and be on drugs and not test positive," Papp said in interviews after his testimony.

He said it was easy to get away with having allowed amounts of testosterone in his system if he timed it right. After leaving doping control, he could simply go to a private place and rub the gel into his chest.

Landis sat at the defense table, pretty much expressionless as he watched Papp testify. But as he left the hearing room Friday evening, he was happy.

Asked if he was hanging in there, he said: "Yep."

After Papp's testimony, Landis brought his first witness, Bruce Goldberger, a University of Florida professor with expertise in the kind of testing that resulted in Landis' positive urine tests.

Goldberger described himself as initially reluctant to get involved in the case.

"But I saw some glaring issues with the way the chemistry was performed in the laboratory," Goldberger said of the French lab where the tests were done.

He derided crossed-out and whited-out numbers on forms that documented Landis' positive test, all of which he said spoke to doubts about the chain of custody of the samples &

who controlled them and what they did with them at specific times.

Earlier in the week, the Landis attorneys had used cross-examination of USADA witnesses to set up these arguments. But Goldberger was the first witness to connect the dots of the argument.

"It's the pattern that concerns me," he said. "I can't trust it. I think it's unreliable."

As for gaps in the chain of custody, Goldberger said: "Terrible. Omissions in the chain of custody should demonstrate lack of attention."

The Landis team also asked Goldberger about data from graphs that charted results from the testosterone-epitestosterone ratio tests that are used as screening tests in doping cases. Landis' "A" sample, taken after Stage 17, showed an 11:1 ratio, when a ratio of 4:1 can be considered a positive test.

Goldberger said those graphs weren't accurate enough to warrant going to the more detailed carbon-isotope ratio tests that found synthetic testosterone in Landis' urine.

"It was disgraceful," Goldberger said after his testimony.

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