By Brian Clark
MADISON – Disputed Tour de France winner Floyd Landis may have been fired by his Phonak racing team, but his Wisconsin sponsor – the Saris Cycling Group -says it is sticking by him.
Samples taken from Landis during last month’s race revealed excessive amounts of the male sex hormone testosterone and the American faces being stripped of victory and a two-year ban. The U.S. Cycling Federation has referred the case to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which may take further action against Landis.
“We continue to support him,” said David Cathcart, a spokesman for the Saris Cycling Group. He said the Madison maker of indoor cycles, trainers, bike computers and racks will back Landis through the appeals process, which could take months.
“This whole thing is disappointing, but we are not medical experts and we can’t speculate about what caused the positive results,” Cathcart allowed.
“But we would have loved to see Floyd continuing to celebrate his victory, instead of all this,” he said.
Landis has denied using any performance-enhancing drugs. He and his spokesmen have suggested the positive results were due to alcohol, dehydration, medicine used to treat a degenerating hip, contamination or other causes.
He stands to lose millions of dollars in endorsements and sponsorships. If he is suspended from racing, the 30-year-old Pennsylvania native has said his career is essentially over.
Marc Sani, publisher of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, said he was not shocked that Phonak had fired Landis.
Nor was he surprised, he said, that Saris is sticking with the racer.
“Phonak is a Swiss company and to have an American on your team who is facing doping charges might not be such a good thing for its public relations,” he said.
Conversely, a U.S. company might want to stay with the embattled American, he speculated.
“In for a penny, in for a pound,” he said. “I tend to think they will stick with him for a while.
“If he holds onto the yellow jersey, they’ll look good for hanging with him,” he said. “However, there will always be an asterisk after his name.
“It’s too early to say how this will play out and it’s really not fair to speculate,” he said. “But I think everyone is pretty disappointed.”