Ex-Cyclist Agrees to Repay Defense Fund Donors $478K

     (CN) - Former professional cyclist Floyd Landis admitted on Friday to defrauding donors to his legal defense fund and agreed to repay the more than $478,000 he raised to fight doping allegations he later conceded were true.
     In Friday's deferred prosecution agreement, Landis, 36, admitted to having "lied to trusting people" who donated $478,354 to the Floyd Fairness Fund to help him challenge allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
     When his urine tested positive for unnatural testosterone, Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France victory, according to charging documents filed in federal court in San Diego.
     Landis fought a lengthy legal battle with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), and in September 2007, an arbitration panel upheld the agency's finding that Landis had, in fact, tested positive for testosterone. He was banned from the sport for two years.
     He continued to appeal, and the case was withdrawn by the parties with prejudice December 2008.
     To help defray the more than $2 million he spent fighting the allegations in court, Landis raised $478,354 from 1,765 donors through his Floyd Fairness Fund. He raised additional money through town hall-style meetings, online videos, charity rides and personal appeals, according to federal prosecutors.
     In his 2007 book "Falsely Positive: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France," the former cyclist asserted: "I did not use [performance-enhancing drugs] in the 2006 Tour de France or any other time in my career."
     "[I]n fact, Defendant had used [performance-enhancing drugs] previously in his professional cycling career, including during his time on the United States Postal Service cycling team and during the 2006 [Tour de France] when he rode for the Phonak cycling team," according to the deferred prosecution agreement.
     Prosecutors say Landis has since admitted to using "a staggering array" of performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career, including several forms of testosterone, human growth hormone and pregnancy hormones. Though the athlete maintains he did not use artificial testosterone immediately before Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France, prosecutors say Landis has admitted to doping while with the United States Postal Service and Phonak cycling teams.
     His former Postal Service teammate and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong decided this week to quit fighting the USADA after a judge dismissed his federal lawsuit against the agency over similar doping allegations.
     Armstrong, who will likely be stripped of his Tour de France titles and banned for life from professional cycling, called the USADA a "bully" and stated on his website that he was "finished with all this nonsense."
     The government agreed to dismiss the information filed against Landis, which charged him with a single count of wire fraud, if he repays the donors in full within three years and abides by the terms of the agreement.