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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Shot Heard Round The World: Landis

The Wall Street Journal published a lengthy piece today in which the disgraced and disqualified 2006 Tour de France winner (and loser), Floyd Landis, took pot shots at several of the biggest names in cycling, including the 7 time TdF winner and Team Radio Shack leader, Lance Armstrong.

Landis alleges that he and his fellow U.S. Postal Service teammates routinely used testosterone patches and Erythropoietin (EPO) under the instruction of coach Johan Bruyneel and the President of USA Cycling, Stephen Johnson. Landis implicated Armstrong, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie and essentially the entire professional cycling establishment in colluding to promote and disseminate performance enhancing drugs to the peloton of professional cyclists.

Until these latest emails were sent to ESPN and The Wall Street Journal, Landis has vehemently denied ever using performance enhancing drugs. Landis even secured a book deal from Simon Spotlight Entertainmen for Positively False, a book in which he co-authored an in-depth denial of the allegations leveled against him.

Floyd Landis took the matter to court, which resulted in the bizarre and emotional testimony of three-time Tour de france winner Greg Lemond, who testified under oath that he had implored Landis to "save cycling" with a simple admission to doping. Lemond further testified that he had shared confidential details of his childhood sexual abuse with Landis in an attempt to draw him into an honest confession and help clear his conscience. A 2007 report from ESPN details the matter here:

The only sure bet is that Landis' battle to win over public opinion took a massive hit Thursday after his business manager, former teammate and close friend Will Geoghegan was revealed to have made a legally ill-advised and personally vicious phone call to LeMond on the eve of LeMond's appearance at Landis' arbitration hearing.

Everyone in the courtroom knew LeMond agreed to testify for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency because he was out to help the agency's case against Landis. Case insiders also knew that the two riders had an acrimonious phone conversation last August, shortly after Landis' positive tests were announced, and assumed LeMond would describe that call in unflattering terms.

But few people were prepared for the broadside LeMond delivered with the simple, modern act of handing his BlackBerry to USADA lawyer Matt Barnett, who placed it on the podium to display the phone number on an overhead projector.

The number shown was one reporters covering the case had entered in their cell phones many times over the past few months as Geoghegan barnstormed the country with his friend Landis, rallying support for Landis and asking fans for contributions to fund his defense.

One can only imagine how donors to the Floyd Fairness Fund felt when they learned about what LeMond said next.

The courtroom was silent and still, except for Landis lawyer Maurice Suh, who whirled toward Geoghegan at the first mention of the phone call and began whispering to him intensely. Geoghegan, a former rider who first befriended Landis when Landis was a teenager, sat with his head bowed and his exposed neck flushed crimson in the row of seats behind the defense table.

LeMond earlier had said that during the August phone call, he confided details of his own childhood sexual abuse to Landis and implored him to admit that he had doped, a confession LeMond said could "save cycling" and Landis' own mental health.

"You were sharing this in an effort to help him?" Barnett asked.

"Yes," LeMond said.

According to LeMond, Geoghegan tried to use that information in a threatening phone call placed at 6:53 p.m. Wednesday night.

"I'm your uncle, and I'll be there tomorrow," LeMond said a then-anonymous man told him, and continued with references to vocabulary best known to pedophiles. LeMond later traced the number using a paid Internet search.

With his reputation in tatters and a two year ban, Landis has recently attempted to revive his career with a few middling results for Rock Racing; a team that cultivated a "bad boy" image through its liberal employment of ex-dopers and tainted names. In 2010, Rock Racing was not issued a professional license and was relegated to amateur status. The downgrade caused the team's big names to seek their fortunes elsewhere and Landis has failed to get picked up by a new team.

This is why I view the latest allegations with a little caution. It seems that Landis is in desperate need of publicity and more importantly-- income. Accusing some of the most decorated figures in the sport of doping is a very great way to generate a new stream of revenue. Seeing as we are now in the middle of cycling season and in the lead up to the Tour de France, these new revelations are guaranteed to keep Floyd Landis' name in the headlines a little bit longer. Not only does his sudden need to come clean feel oddly timed, but his allegations and insinuations that Mellow Johnny himself taught Landis how to dope seems a little extravagant. Again, Landis seems to be mislaying blame from himself onto others. In his admission he is again attempting to avoid taking responsibility by painting himself as a victim of a corrupt system and corrupt leadership.

I don't know if Armstrong or others doped. I know they have yet to test positive and I know they are routinely tested and I know the French have prayed for a positive result for nearly a decade. I also know that Floyd Landis holds zero credibility at this point and these allegations, whether true or not, make him appear to be a troubled and vindictive individual who was denied the full glory of the podium by doping and so he hopes to drag everyone else down with him. If Floyd can not shine... then nobody else shall either.

It just sounds like a sad way to win.


Link to one of the actual letters: here

New York Times Article: here

VeloNews Ongoing Coverage: here

UCI Denies Allegations: here

Armstrong Responds: here

Quote From NYT:
I think Landis is in a very sad situation and I feel sorry for the guy because I don’t accept anything he says as true,” McQuaid said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “This is a guy who has been condemned in court, who has stood up in court and stated that he never saw any doping in cycling. He’s written a book saying he won the Tour de France clean. Where does that leave his credibility? He has an agenda and is obviously out to seek revenge.”