On the eve of a hearing that promises to be more about dry science than sensationalism, Floyd Landis escalated hostilities by launching one more missile aimed at the credibility of the authorities prosecuting him on doping charges.
Landis, addressing reporters at a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, said U.S. Anti-Doping Agency general counsel Travis Tygart offered to reduce his potential suspension in exchange for incriminating information about seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong "or anyone more important than me."
Tygart made the offer to Landis' lawyer Howard Jacobs shortly after the cyclist's positive test for testosterone was confirmed last August, according to Landis. He said the conversation Jacobs related to him convinced him that USADA's motivation in his case was suspect and the agency was willing "to do harm to my reputation in order to get to Lance."
Landis told ESPN.com in a brief phone interview after the news conference that he had not intended the Armstrong revelation to dominate the event, which also included a lengthy statement summarizing various arguments by his team and an announcement of his intention to file an ethics complaint against World Anti-Doping Agency president Richard Pound.
The embattled cyclist added that he had previously disclosed the Armstrong anecdote to journalists who chose not to write about it. He said he did not think it was of use as evidence in his case.
Contacted by ESPN.com, Tygart repeated his boilerplate response to all inquiries about the case, albeit with some anger in his voice. "If Mr. Landis wants to waive the rule and allow USADA to comment, I will be more than happy to comment on his nonsense," the lawyer said.
Landis fired back: "USADA has followed very few of its rules and conveniently, they follow this one," he said.
Jacobs could not be reached for comment.
Armstrong, long dogged by unproven doping allegations, spoke to reporters on a hastily arranged conference call from Austin, Texas, shortly after Landis made his statements. While Armstrong expressed some weariness that the topic was rearing its head again two years after his retirement, he said he was neither surprised by the news nor irritated with Landis for revealing it.
"I think Floyd has to make a case for himself," Armstrong said. "This says a lot about USADA's methods, their tactics and their confidence in their case. He has a scientific case to fight, but it's also a case of ethics and morals. This makes USADA look petty."
Armstrong said he was aware that USADA had approached Jacobs with a deal based on providing information about other athletes but did not know his name had been mentioned specifically.
"I think it's absurd," Armstrong said of the alleged attempt to solicit damaging information about him. "There's nothing to find. They've looked everywhere and can't find anything. The other thing I've said is that it will never go away."
Landis was a support rider on three of Armstrong's Tour de France-winning U.S. Postal Service teams before winning the Tour himself last year. The two men were close in Landis' early days on Postal but feuded after Landis jumped to Swiss-based Phonak in 2004. They later reconciled and are now on good terms.
The WADA code pemits athletes' doping sanctions to be reduced if they provide "substantial assistance" to authorities. The rule is primarily geared toward helping build cases against those who supply or administer banned substances. American sprinter Justin Gatlin, sentenced to a provisionary eight-year ban after his second doping violation last year, stands to have his suspension reduced if he provides useful information to authorities.
Landis faces a two-year suspension and forfeiture of his Tour title if his positive test is upheld. The testing was done at the same French laboratory criticized by Armstrong for leaks and poor procedures in the past.
Bonnie DeSimone is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.