August 15, 2006

Phonak team disbanded after Landis positive test

By Katie Reid

ZURICH (Reuters) - Tour de France winner Floyd Landis's
Phonak team is to be disbanded following his positive doping
test for testosterone.

Team owner Andy Rihs told a news conference on Tuesday that
he deeply regretted the development, especially as he had
always spoken out against doping.

"As a passionate cyclist, I am bitterly disappointed the
sport of cycling apparently has become a synonym for doping. I
truly regret this development and it has brought me to the
decision of disbanding the Phonak team," said Rihs.

American Landis was sacked by the Swiss-based team after
the second B sample tested positive for the male sex hormone
earlier this month.

Team manager John Lelangue declined to speculate on the
future of Landis, who has denied any wrongdoing and plans to
fight a two-year ban from the sport's governing body, the
International Cycling Union.

"What he (Landis) does is up to him," said Lelangue.

Rihs said the team had tried to find other sponsors without
success and would now be seeking alternative rides for Landis's
colleagues. Phonak had already said before this year's Tour
that it planned to withdraw from the sport.


Financial reasons and the uncertainty regarding the renewal
of the ProTour license that expires at the end of the year had
prevented Phonak from finding a replacement sponsor, Rihs said.

"For this reason, today I see myself forced to do something
I have never done in my whole life as a businessman. I have to
give up," said Rihs.

"We will never enter a team in the Tour de France again,"
added Lelangue.

Rihs said he would remain a cycling fan and hoped one day
to see a Tour de France winner from Switzerland.

Landis gave his positive test after the 17th stage of last
month's Tour, which showed abnormal testosterone readings. The
naturally-occurring hormone boosts strength and energy and aids
recovery from strenuous exercise.

The American had produced one of the greatest solo rides in
Tour history to win the stage, 24 hours after his challenge
looked over when he cracked on the final climb of the 16th
stage and fell more than eight minutes behind the leader.

Phonak will continue to participate in all the races
scheduled for the rest of 2006.