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Landis Makes Last-Ditch Appeal On Title

The final uphill climb for Floyd Landis in his Tour de France odyssey will end in a Swiss courtroom.

The American cyclist decided Wednesday to try to regain his 2006 championship at the Court of Arbitration for Sport - the top court for sports - hoping arbitrators there will reverse an earlier decision to ban him for two years and strip him of his title for using performance-enhancing drugs.

"I want to take this opportunity to say again, that I am innocent of the doping allegations against me," Landis said. "I hope that the arbitrators of the case will fairly address the facts showing that the French laboratory made mistakes, which resulted in a false positive. Although the process of proving my innocence has been difficult for me and my family, I will not stop trying to prove my innocence."

Meanwhile, cycling officials already have moved on.

A ceremony is scheduled Monday in Madrid, where Landis' yellow jersey will be awarded to second-place finisher Oscar Pereiro. The International Cycling Union declared Pereiro the winner a day after the arbitrators' ruling.

If Landis loses his final appeal, he'll remain the first person in the 105-year history of the Tour to lose the title because of a doping offense.

Landis will, once again, be an underdog in this case. The appeal surely will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars but probably not millions, because much of the evidence already has been established and heard.

A CAS panel is expected to be appointed and meet within three to five months. The same parties - the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the Landis camp, led by attorney Maurice Suh - will present their cases in what is expected to be a closed hearing in Lausanne, Switzerland, after which CAS arbitrators will issue a final decision.

Last month, an arbitration panel ruled against Landis, upholding the results of a test that showed he used synthetic testosterone to fuel his spectacular comeback Tour victory. That decision meant Landis had to forfeit his title and is subject to a two-year ban, retroactive to Jan. 30.

The arbitrators ruled against Landis even though they found numerous problems with procedures followed at the French lab that analyzed his urine.

Suh said he doesn't expect those errors to play too big a factor in the appeal.

"Properly applied, the recording of substantial errors without rebuttal from USADA should have resulted in Floyd being vindicated," Suh said. "So, once you get to this point, it's difficult to take too much comfort from their statements."

In a news release on the Floyd Fairness Fund Web site, Landis said: "Knowing that the accusations against me are simply wrong, and having risked all my energy and resources - including those of my family, friends and supporters - to show clearly that I won the 2006 Tour de France fair and square, I will continue to fight for what I know is right."

After the Sept. 20 ruling, Landis said he was unsure if he would appeal, not knowing if he wanted to spend another $2 million and the untold emotional cost of going through the process again.

But the cyclist has decided to press on.

"I think it has been the result of a relatively careful process of looking at alternatives and what Floyd wants to do," Suh said. "It's balancing his desire to try to vindicate himself against the cost and emotional toll it's taken.

"But ultimately, Floyd is a fighter, and he just felt the (arbitration) decision was not an accurate reflection of what facts were or what law is. That's what ultimately motivated him."

Suh said Landis had not yet decided whether he again would barnstorm the country to raise money for his legal defense.

In the original case, the arbitrators voted 2-1 again Landis. In their 84-page decision, the majority found the initial screening test to measure Landis' testosterone levels - the testosterone-to-epitestosterone test - was not done according to World Anti-Doping Agency rules.

But the more precise and expensive carbon-isotope ratio analysis, performed after a positive T-E test is recorded, was accurate, the arbitrators said, meaning "an anti-doping rule violation is established."

USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart did not immediately return messages left by The Associated Press.