The Tour de France champ says he has "never taken any banned substance"

Cycling champ Floyd Landis became the latest casualty in the war against doping after a second drugs sample confirmed a positive test for excessive amounts of the male sex hormone testosterone during the Tour de France.

The American is now likely to become the first winner of the world’s most famous cycling race to lose his title because of a positive dope test and he also faces a two-year ban.

A statement issued by the International Cycling Union (UCI) on Saturday said Landis’s B sample taken after his win in the 17th stage on July 20 had confirmed a doping offence.

“For us, he cannot be the Tour de France winner any more,” Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme told Reuters from his holiday residence. “Technically we cannot say he has lost his title but he has soiled the yellow jersey.”

Landis, who again denied ever taking drugs, was immediately sacked by his Swiss team Phonak.

“Landis will be dismissed without notice for violating the team’s internal Code of Ethics,” Phonak said in a statement. “Landis will continue to have legal options to contest the findings. However, this will be his personal affair and the Phonak team will no longer be involved in that.”

His Phonak teammate Bert Grabsch added: “This is a catastrophe and huge disappointment for me and the whole team.”

In a statement on his Web site, the 30-year-old American said he had never taken a banned substance.

“I have never taken any banned substance, including testosterone. I was the strongest man in the Tour de France and that is why I am the champion,” Landis said. “I will fight these charges with the same determination and intensity that I bring to my training and racing. It is now my goal to clear my name and restore what I worked so hard to achieve.”

His lawyer, Howard Jacobs, said he was waiting to receive full laboratory documentation for the B test. “In consultation with some of the leading medical and scientific experts, we will prove that Floyd Landis’s victory in the 2006 Tour de France was not aided in any respect by the use of any banned substances,” Jacobs said.

Landis and Jacobs would also question the UCI’s premature release of the A sample findings and the anonymous leak of the carbon-isotope test results to the New York Times on July 31, the statement said.

The UCI statement said an analysis of the B sample confirmed the result of a finding notified by the anti-doping laboratory of Paris on July 26.

“In accordance to the anti-doping rules, the Anti-Doping Commission of the UCI will request that the USA Cycling Federation open a disciplinary procedure against the rider,” it said.

Spaniard Oscar Pereiro Sio, who finished second 57 seconds adrift of Landis in the overall standings, is now likely to be declared the winner of the Tour.

“After hearing the result of the B test this morning I feel 99 percent champion,” Pereiro told a news conference in Vigo on Saturday. “There are some bureaucratic steps still to go and we don’t know what the lawyers will do, so I must wait some days or weeks before I know for sure.”

Pereiro would then become the first Spaniard to win the Tour since Miguel Indurain’s last victory in 1995.

Landis, 30, tested positive for testosterone after an astounding comeback in the final mountain stage. It came a day after a poor performance, which all but knocked him out of contention.

Landis has 10 days to respond to the documents that are provided, according to U.S Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) rules.

Those documents, Landis’s response and any documents USADA provides will go to a review panel after the 10 days.

The review panel will make a recommendation whether or not there is a case. The USADA, based on that recommendation, will then decide whether to charge Landis.

If the USADA does charge the Phonak rider, he can contest that decision and the recommended sanction before a U.S panel of judges.

Landis’s lawyers could then take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Testosterone speeds up recovery after exercise and improves stamina and strength. On the eve of the Tour de France, nine riders, including 1997 winner Jan Ullrich and Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Basso, were suspended by their teams because of their implication in an investigation over a blood doping scandal in Spain.