Saturday, May 22, 2010
Floyd The Fraud
In July of 2006, American cyclist Floyd Landis gave us a thrill. He dominated a mountain stage of the Tour De France--an epic, Merckx-style, solo breakaway. He won the stage, and the yellow jersey. That was the last good day in the life of Landis.
Soon after that stage win, it was revealed that he had tested positive for testosterone. He was stripped of his Tour win. He was banned by the UCI, cycling's governing body, for two years. He had hip surgery. He was without a team. His wife left him. All the while, he maintained that he had won the '06 Tour without drugs. He wrote a book, "Positively False", proclaiming his innocence for 250 pages. He fought his suspension in court, but it was costly. He went through his life savings. He started the "Floyd Fairness Fund" and raised over $500,000--all donated by people who believed that Landis was telling the truth.
He claimed that he had taken a shot of whisky the night before his stage win, saying that's what caused the positive test. He then claimed the French labs had botched his samples. He then threw Greg LeMond under the bus during his protest trial, when it came out that Landis had blackmailed LeMond, using a story LeMond told Landis in confidence about his being sexually abused as a child. Landis lost his court appeal. Landis had lost everything.
He went away--for a while. He's raced (poorly) for domestic teams the last couple of years. Then, this week, his name resurfaces. After four years of proclaiming his innocence, he now says he was lying. He says he did dope during the '06 Tour. He says he doped as far back as 2002, with all of his then-US Postal Service teammates, including Lance Armstrong. He even went as far to say that the UCI accepted money from Armstrong to cover up a positive doping test during a race in '02. Strong accusations. Or are they, when they come from a scumbag like Landis?
Some specifics from the Landis emails to cycling officials are hard to believe. He claims he went to Armstrong's home to pick up his first dose of EPO, and that Lance met him in the hallway, with his then-wife watching, and gave him the drug. As much as Armstrong is tested and watched, would he really serve as the guy on the team who hands out the EPO to his teammates? Would he really store it in his home, where drug testers show up, unannounced, 50 times a year? Would he really hand out EPO so casually at his home, like he was handing out candy to neighborhood trick-or-treaters on Halloween?
Armstrong's team released a series of emails that Landis had sent to Lance, and to other cycling officials--including some to the organizers of the Tour of California, trying to blackmail them into letting him race in their event. Clearly, Landis has hit rock bottom. He also appears to have lost his marbles. He has no career, no money, no family, no friends, and no credibility.
What if he's now telling the truth? Too late. Had he come forward with these accusations the day after he tested positive in '06, a lot of people would have listened. Now, he's seen as a bitter, axe-grinding, has-been who is simply trying to drag the cycling world into the gutter with him.
And to top it all off, Landis has no proof of any kind. It's just his word against US Postal's word, and as Armstrong said this week, "We like our word."
Armstrong has had to fend off drug rumors before. There is always speculation, but never any evidence or proof of any kind. No doubt, cycling has been a dirty sport--filthy, in fact. But it's also been the most vigilant sport in the world when it comes to testing and penalizing it's athletes. Practically every big name in the sport in the last 10-12 years has failed a drug test--except for Lance. Is he just a genius at staying ahead of the posse? Maybe. Or, perhaps he's just that one-in-a-million athlete, like Jordan or Gretzky or Merckx, who is simply better than everyone else.
Only Lance and a precious few of his confidants know the truth. From the outside, all we have to go on are the test results. Armstrong has, by 100 miles, been the most tested athlete in the world for the past decade. He's never failed one. Those are the facts. Odds say that at some point he's tried something illegal to improve his performance. But the odds also tell us that he's a genetic freak--the same freak that, since he was a teenager, has been head-and-shoulders better than just about everyone else in his sport. Are we to believe that he was doping at age 15 when he would show up at the Tuesday Night Crit in Richardson and blow away the field? I doubt it. Odds also tell us that when you train harder, plan better, and out-think your opponent, you have a better chance to win. Lance has always done those three things.
Armstrong has superior genetics and a clean testing record. Landis has a history of lying, blackmail, and positive dope tests. So who should we believe? Once again, Armstrong ends up the winner. In this case, a yellow jersey for Lance, and scarlet letter for Landis.