Landis’ status up in air 

Floyd Landis used his victory in the inaugural Amgen Tour of California as a springboard to claiming the Tour de France crown in July.

But Wednesday, as organizers of the California cycling event released the details of the 2007 course, the reigning champion finds himself months — and perhaps years — away from returning to professional racing.

Landis, 31, is currently recovering from hip replacement surgery and also faces doping allegations that have left him without a team and put his Tour de France title and future in the sport in question.

Because of the uncertainty of his situation, a race organizer for the Tour of California said he hadn’t spoken with Landis about the potential for participation in this year’s event in any capacity, be it as a rider or in a ceremonial role.

"While he’s recovering [from his surgery], we’re not making any ‘asks’ of him," said Michael Roth, the vice president of corporate communications for race organizer AEG.

Michael Henson, a spokesman for Landis, said his client would likely be accommodating if asked to participate in whatever fashion.

"We haven’t been approached by AEG or the organizers of the Amgen Tour at this point," Henson said. "If an offer to be a ceremonial starter position were to be made ... I’m sure he would be very happy to receive such an invitation."

Landis won the Tour of California by 29 seconds over David Zabriskie and then went on to win the Tour de France by 57 seconds. He made up more than seven minutes on then-leader Oscar Pereiro Sio during an epic Stage 17 ride, but both his "A" and "B" urine samples taken following the stage and processed after the end of the Tour tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone.

Following the test results, Landis was dropped from his Phonak team (which disbanded) and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has said he does not recognize Landis as the event’s winner.

Landis is not technically suspended, but he cannot join another team until he is cleared of the charges. He has maintained his innocence and is currently preparing for an arbitration hearing in front of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which could take place in early February, just before the Tour of California, Henson said.

Landis is facing a two-year ban from the sport if the positive test results are upheld.

"[Floyd] feels that should this case be treated fairly and should he be treated fairly, he’ll be vindicated," Henson said.

Physically, Landis is beginning to regain his fitness after his surgery. Henson estimated Landis could be ready to enter a race "two to three" months following the start of his training regimen, which could potentially mean he would be ready for the Feb. 18 prologue of the Tour of California.

"Should Floyd successfully navigate the hearing and have his suspension removed he would clearly become one of the favorites in the race," Roth said. "But again, with his surgery we just don’t know when he will be back and physically fit to race."

melliser@examiner.com

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