Floyd Landis does not blame those who believe he is a drugs cheat but has pleaded for "a fair trial". The American tested positive for illegal levels of testosterone during his Tour de France victory last summer and has had his prize of around £300,000 withheld.
"I don't fault people for believing I must be guilty," he said. "If I were looking in from the outside, I'd be feeling exactly the same way. But I'd like to be given a fair trial and the evidence to be considered with an open mind."
The United States Anti-Doping Agency rejected Landis' motion to have the case against him dismissed in September and he is due to present his formal appeal to a panel from the American Arbitration Society early next year.
Suspicions arose over Landis following his incredible recovery to win the 17th stage of the Tour and he admits he did not help his case by giving a variety of explanations for his positive test. He placed responsibility on whiskey consumed on the evening of the 16th stage, cortisone injections he was allowed for a hip injury, thyroid medication and naturally produced testosterone.
He said: "It was a mistake to come out with those things but I'm not an expert and I'm very unhappy that I've had to become one." Landis, who was sacked by the Phonak team, claims three of four testosterone tests on his sample were negative and that laboratory error could explain the positive result. He said that the procedure considered by the World Anti-Doping Agency to be the most accurate indicator of long-term testosterone use was negative. Testers at France's national anti-doping laboratory have admitted an error over the identification number of the cyclist's B sample, recording the figure 995-474 as 994-474.
Landis said he would not knowingly take performance-enhancing substances. "The chances of me getting away with it would be zero," he said. "Even if I had taken that course, would I then be so useless in the press conference and so devoid of explanation? Wouldn't I have my defence all worked out? This must make me the dumbest person on the whole planet. The accusation, in reality, is that I'm an idiot.
"The sport doesn't want me to win and it's going to be very difficult to do so," he said. "Even if I do, people will believe I've got off on a technicality. I want people to understand the true, scientific reasons behind my innocence, not a technicality. If I lost, I'm not sure I could carry on. I wasn't the highest-paid cyclist and it's looking like this might cost me $500,000 [£255,000]. I think the authorities know I'll run out of money. They've said they'll appeal if they lose the hearing and that might take another year.
"If I'm banned for four years and stripped of my title and prize-money, I'll never race again. My desire for it would have been obliterated. How can cycling win? Either the winner of its greatest race is a cheat or the credibility of the system is in tatters if I'm found innocent. Neither is a great result.
"I may never get my prize-money and I may lose my title as Tour de France champion, but there's one thing they'll never get from me. I have the yellow jersey at home and that's where it's going to stay for the rest of my life."