Landis to participate, not compete in Tour 

There will be no trumpets to announce his arrival or a red carpet to walk out on, but defending champion Floyd Landis will still be a presence at this year’s Tour of California. Landis, 31, has chosen not to compete in professional road races this cycling season, instead focusing on issues stemming from a positive drug test for elevated levels of testosterone during his win at the 2006 Tour de France.

He was not contacted by Tour of California organizer AEGto participate as a competitor or in an official celebratory role this year, but instead will follow the race and sign autographs as part of the lifestyle festival that is set up alongside each of the event’s eight stages.

AEG is the parent company of Clarity Media, which operates The Examiner.

Landis will be there to promote Smith and Nephew, the company that developed the successful Birmingham hip replacement surgery he had in September. His spokesman, Michael Henson, said that AEG has kept a "distant neutrality" from Landis following the Tour de France.

He was asked if Landis was disappointed about not being officially invited back and paused 10 seconds before responding.

"Floyd feels that the Amgen Tour is one of the best races in America and he had a tremendous experience there last year," Henson said. "But the race is missing a key element this year and that’s its defending champion, in a competitive or any other ceremonial capacity."

AEG Sports president Shawn Hunter confirmed his organization did not approach Landis about participating in this year’s Tour. However, he denied that the controversy surrounding Landis’ Tour de France victory influenced that decision and said he was looking forward to seeing Landis on the course.

"He was a great champion of the inaugural race ... and he obviously was tested and it was a clean race," Hunter said. "We’re obviously watching and hopeful that his case ends in a positive result, and we’d love to see him competing again."

Landis used a victory in last year’s Tour of California as a springboard to a win in the Tour de France, cycling’s most prestigious race. But the day after he stood on the podium in Paris, it was announced that Landis had tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone and he now faces a two-year ban from the sport in both the United States and France and the possibility of being stripped of his Tour de France title.

Last week, Landis agreed not to compete in any race in France this year as part of a deal that postponed a hearing in front of the French anti-doping agency. He is currently preparing for a May 14 hearing with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in front of a three-member American Arbitration Association panel.

Tour: ‘Above and beyond the normal protocol’

While doping allegations have sometimes overshadowed cycling in recent years, AEG Sports president Shawn Hunter says his organization is doing all it can to keep performance-enhancing drugs out of the Tour of California.

The Tour already follows the doping-prevention protocol of the International Cycling Union and this year has requested the help of USA Cycling to administer even more advanced testing.

"We clearly want our race to be at the forefront on doing the right things on all fronts in how we produce the race," Hunter said. "We plan on, at our cost, testing above and beyond the normal protocol."

Hunter said there were no failed drug tests in last year’s inaugural event and details on this year’s doping prevention will be discussed at a press conference Saturday at 2 p.m. at San Francisco’s Argonaut Hotel.

TOUR OF CALIFORNIA

WHAT: Second Tour of California cycling race

WHEN: Eight-day race begins Sunday at 1 p.m. on the Embarcadero

WHERE: 12 cities are highlighted, starting in San Francisco, north to Santa Rosa, then east to Sacramento before heading south to San Jose and finishing in Long Beach

LENGTH: The eight stages (including two time trials and a circuit race) cover 647.5 miles

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Floyd Landis

MORE INFO: Visit www.amgentourofcalifornia.com

melliser@examiner.com

For the latest news and features about the race, be sure to check our special Amgen Tour of California page.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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