PARIS – The French anti-doping agency postponed a decision Thursday on whether to suspend Tour de France winner Floyd Landis because of a positive doping test after he agreed not to race in the country this year.
The AFLD had been expected to rule, but agreed to an appeal by Landis to postpone their decision until after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency rules in May, AFLD president Pierre Bordry said. The AFLD will resume its discussion of the case in late June.
The decision came after Landis pledged not to race in France in 2007, Bordry said in a statement he read to reporters in Paris.
"He understood perfectly that if he didn't act today, we would start the procedure immediately," Bordry said. "We will let Landis defend himself as he wishes before the USADA."
Landis had hip-replacement surgery 4 1/2 months ago, so it was unlikely that he would have competed in this year's Tour.
The American, who has denied wrongdoing, did not appear at Thursday's meeting of the AFLD's nine-member panel, but sent a lawyer who read his request for a delay.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, Landis said the parallel cases in France and the United States were complicating matters, and asked the French agency to hold off until after the U.S. agency rules. The USADA will hold its hearings May 14.
"In this case, and in order to avoid any misunderstanding, I agree to voluntarily not participate in any professional or amateur cycling event in France until December 31, 2007, and in particular the Tour de France 2007," Landis said in the letter.
Bordry said Landis deserves to be heard by the USADA as he requests. However, Bordry echoed Tour de France president Christian Prudhomme's sentiment that the American agency was dragging out its process.
Landis' urine sample after a stage win in last year's Tour de France was found to contain elevated testosterone to epitestosterone levels. He risks being the first rider in the 104-year history of the race to be stripped of his title. Prudhomme has said the Tour no longer considers him the winner.
Under French law, the AFLD has the right to suspend Landis for up to two years from racing on French soil.
Landis argues that the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory which carried out the tests is unreliable, a view shared by seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong.
Landis insisted again on his innocence at a fundraising rally in New York on Wednesday night. He vowed to fight the "lack of leadership at the top of cycling and at the top of the anti-doping agencies."
Bordry said Landis reserves the right to contest the French lab, but maintains the "A" and "B" samples both showed positive readings.
"The 'A' sample tested positive for testosterone. So we asked Mr. Landis, at the time, if he wanted to do a 'B' sample test," Bordry said. "A 'B'-sample test was done at Chatenay-Malabry in the presence of an expert nominated by Mr. Landis, (and) paid by him."
Also present, Bordry said, were "an expert nominated by the USADA, and an expert nominated by the International Cycling Union."
He said all "these experts signed the report" agreeing that the tests showed a positive reading.
Had disciplinary procedures started Thursday, Landis strongly risked a two-year suspension in accordance with French law applying WADA's maximum penalty for a first-time failed doping test.
France is one of 47 countries which has ratified the WADA code, which effectively gives the anti-doping agency government backing to apply its code sanctions.
The United States has yet to ratify WADA's code.
This could lead to a peculiar situation whereby, even if the USADA rules in Landis's favor, the AFLD can still prevent him from racing in France.
"We are absolutely not tied to the USADA's decision as France has ratified the world code, not the United States," Bordry said.
However, the AFLD does not have any power over any other governments and, should Landis be cleared, the UCI would then review the case and may allow him to compete in major races outside of France such as the Giro d'Italia and the Spanish Vuelta.