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.

7 comments:

  1. Is it possible the cycling world is on the bleeding edge of drug enhancement AND doping avoidance? I've long wondered about the science of it all.

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  2. Good post Junior. I want to believe Lance is clean. Cycling needs him to be. It would be a huge blow for cycling and for everything Lance has done through Livestrong if any real evidence surfaces. I don't think it will. If there was tangible evidence, the French would have found it by now.

    The part that nags at me, is his direct connection with Floyd, Tyler and Frankie. All teammates of Lance. Both Frankie and Floyd have now come out with accusations that they have seen Lance with banned substances.

    My own personal thought -- Lance doped pre-cancer, just like most of his peers. I think there is a plausible link to his doping and his cancer. I think he was given a second chance at life and wouldn't risk another run in with cancer by doping. He won his tours clean and can say as much with a clear conscience.

    You want to see a rider who was clean his whole career, look at Andy Hampsten. Huge natural talent who's body broke down each TdF after multiple days in the high mountains. He was an example of what happens to a clean rider racing against doped riders. Clean got him a top 10 at best. He had no chance against the others in week 3. Another example is Vaughters. Huge talent, and an example of what 3 weeks of hard racing does to a clean body.

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  3. And to think that I read Floyd's book last December and actually believed him. Feeling very foolish about that.

    As Lance said, this is not simply clearing one's conscience as Landis claims he is doing. He is out to scorch the Earth and doing so in the middle of a competitive Tour of California and 43 days before the Tour de France.

    Unfortunately, cycling seems destined to get bigger headlines for these types of stories versus those born of on-road accomplishments. To me that's sad since these athletes are amazing.

    I'd like to think that Lance has never doped and that he is a genetic freak, so I hope you are right. I do not know what the future holds for Landis, but its easy to consider it could actually get worse for him; he doesn't seem stable.

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  4. Thanks for the insight Craig. Just like I wait for the Hardline to put things in perspective when there is a baseball story, I kind of count on you to set things straight when there is a cycling story.

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  5. Best explanation I have seen, courage boy...and I think I have read them all. Well said!!

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  6. I think to be competitive world dominant cyclist you are a doper. I hate to say that, but I bet I am more right than wrong. Right now that is just an awful opinion but when the "anti-doping" agency doesnt benifit from cycling's popularity then we might see the truth. Even friends of mine who do the amateur stuff load up on caffiene and ephedrha when able. Its the culture, I think it is too strong to break. Everyone wants an edge and will do whatever it takes because to be competitive you give up so much anyways.

    But really is it just cycling? Nah, its in all the sports. World competition in all sports will have dopers. As far as I am concerned it is a losing battle and we should just let everyone dope up all they want. If they die at 30yrs old then that is darwinism in action. But man could they run fast when they were 25.....

    Maybe technology will save us, as long as there is a buyer, there will be a seller. As long as there is a seller, there will be a doper. We are a culture of cheaters. Because winning is everything unfortunately.

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  7. Junior, don't be so naive. Landis is only one more messenger, and should not be the focus here. He's become a number - a number of people corroborating Armstrong's use of PEDs. Because Landis is an admitted liar, judgment has become clouded for many people too emotionally invested in the sport. Landis is just corroborating facts which, as usual, Armstrong is hoping no one will focus on:

    -Landis is at least the 6th person to claim personal knowledge of Armstrong's doping. (SIX!)

    -A positive "A" sample for EPO, a positive for steroids, cleared with a back dated prescription. (No evidence Armstrong used PEDs? Wrong.)

    -An association with Michele Ferrari. (Google the name)

    -The fact that a good number of Armstrong's principal rivals have been proven to have doped in that same era. With so many being rivals caught, ask yourself what's harder to believe, (a) Armstrong was just THAT MUCH better than everyone else, 7 times in a row, or (b) Armstrong has more money and influence to stay ahead of the PED testing and cover up any mistakes. Divest yourself emotionally before answering that question.

    Given all that, the theory "There's no evidence," appears naive as I said above. Courts find defendants guilty quite often with corroborating evidence as listed above.

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