MALIBU, Calif. - Floyd Landis began a most unusual defense of his Tour de France title yesterday, trading his yellow jersey for a yellow necktie and doing it in an open courtroom instead of the open road.

Striding into the law building at Pepperdine University, Landis said he was confident he'll retain his title if the arbitrators rule fairly and "on the facts."

"I'm excited to get the case under way," Landis said before the hearing began. "I hope the arbitrators rule fairly and on the facts. I'm confident if they do, I'll retain my title and be racing again."

Accused of using banned synthetic testosterone during his win last year, Landis insisted on turning his arbitration hearing into a public process, in part to expose what he says is the fraudulent way USADA and its partners in the industry do business.

"Make no mistake about it," Landis' lead attorney Maurice Suh said in his opening statement, "this case is an utter disaster."

Suh's opening statement included visuals that repeated the word "incompetence" in bold, red letters six times.

"This is science?" Suh said while discussing one piece of USADA evidence. "This is an embarrassment."

Suh condemned the way the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has gone about prosecuting the case, which could result in a 2-year suspension for Landis and make him the first cyclist in the 104-year history of the Tour de France to be stripped of his title.

Richard Young, the lead attorney presenting the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's case, said in his opening statement that despite the publicity, this was simply another in a long list of cases USADA handles - one in which the cold, hard scientific data would prove an athlete had used synthetic testosterone. *