The truth—a very mysterious and sordid concept these days—is still very plain. Today’s revelations notwithstanding, a cooked case is still crispy and charred just so.
But yes, I still believe that if Floyd Landis and his failed drug test from Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France were presented on the same standards of the rule of law, it would have been thrown out of court. I also believe that if Landis were a baseball player, a football player, a golfer or any other pro athlete outside of cycling, he would be on the field right now. Like anyone else in elite sports, Landis probably was not-guilty though he was never innocent.
Maybe this is where that righteous indignation line can be reinserted. After all, everybody gets screwed at one time or another. There’s no sense whining about it and I still do not care if Landis was cocktailing HgH with winstrol and deer urine all while freezing his rest-day blood in a hyperbaric chamber. The fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution still exists. We all own it, but not if you like to ride a bike, win races or have your blood tested at the Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage in Châtenay-Malabry.
Then again, a lot of us look pretty stupid right now.The above section is what hasn’t changed. The part that has changed is everything else. One of the most incredible days of the Tour de France and exciting sports day I have ever seen is more than just a little tainted. Oh sure, Landis still says he did not use the synthetic testosterone he tested positive for (according to that French lab) during that fateful 17th Stage in 2006, but according to admissions published on ESPN.com by Bonnie Ford today, Landis used testosterone in previous editions of the Tour de France as well as HgH during the 2006 season.
In other words… never mind.
Oh, Landis came clean finally, unburdening himself in e-mails to cycling and doping officials and in an interview with Ford in which he claims to have started a systematic doping program in June of 2002 when he joined up with the U.S. Postal Service team. That team, of course, was the vestige of Lance Armstrong and his hand-picked manager, Johan Bruyneel, and it’s where Landis said he leaned all about the hows and whys of performance-enhancing drug use. It wasn’t just old fashioned steroids and syringes, either. Nope, Landis appeared to be more than just a dabbler.
He says he used EPO, a drug so effective it not only improves performance quickly, but it also has the potential to kill a guy if not used properly. He also admitted to using female hormones, diabetes medication and the tried-and-true blood doping, which is when a person removes some of his own blood and stashes it in a freezer only to re-inject it when seeking a boost. That’s some old-school stuff right there.
“I don't feel guilty at all about having doped. I did what I did because that's what we (cyclists) did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 years or 12 years of hard work to get there; and that was a decision I had to make to make the next step,” Landis told Ford. “My choices were, do it and see if I can win, or don't do it and I tell people I just don't want to do that, and I decided to do it.”
Certainly that’s not a statement we hear too many athletes make, let alone one who spent three years and approximately $2 million of his own money attempting to appeal his doping ban. Making the admission even more compelling is the fact that Landis says Armstrong—and many other of the top U.S. riders—were complicit and drug users just like him.
The accusations, of course, are where people start to take notice. It’s one thing to admit that you have done something wrong, but to point out the failings of others is something significant. There’s a word for people who do those types of things and that word is, “rat.” We’ll get to the rat thing in a moment.
Nevertheless, one rider who Landis says was a doper was Dave Zabriskie, who is currently leading the Tour of California. Zabriskie was a roommate and training partner with Landis in Spain. It was in Girona, Spain, the training base for Armstrong and Landis, where it is said one of the world’s most famous athletes kept his blood in a freezer for doping. It’s also there where Bruyneel is said to have schooled Landis on the use of steroid patches, blood doping and human growth hormone.
Kind of like your readin', ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmatic of doping.
The bombshell is the stuff about Armstrong, but that goes without saying. Armstrong has long been accused and suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs in order to become the most decorated cyclist in the history of the sport, but he always fought back tenaciously pointing out that like Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds, he never tested positive for drug use.
But no other rider has ever levied accusations against Armstrong, especially one as intimate to him as Landis. It’s one thing to hear whispers of Armstrong dumping Landis’ “rest-day blood” down a sink during the Tour de France to prove some sort of angry point, but it’s another completely to read the words of one of Armstrong’s closest teammates saying that he got drugs directly from him.
Landis told Ford that he gave Dr. Michele Ferrari, Armstrong’s personal trainer, $10,000 in cash for a season’s worth of doping. Six years ago Ferrari was convicted of fraud and lost his medical license in Italy, and Landis says the doctor personally extracted and re-injected his blood for him. Landis also said he and Armstrong discussed the efficacy of the then-newly developed test for EPO in 2002.
“I didn't wish to take the risks on my own and especially since it was fairly clear that his advice was endorsed by Lance himself,” Landis told Ford. “And therefore Johan and the other guys that knew of it and were involved—working with him, they'd understand the risks that I was taking as well and therefore trust me.”
Trust. That’s an interesting word, isn’t it? Why, after all these years, does the guy talk about this now? After years of refusing to cooperate or name names—you know, steadfastly choosing not to be a rat—why is Landis ratting out the old gang? After all, before he had everything to lose and yet kept his mouth shut. At least we think he kept his mouth shut though Armstrong told reporters in California this morning that he had been receiving “harassing” messages from Landis for quite some time.
Still, this morning Armstrong never said, “Floyd is a liar.” He also did not say, “I didn’t do it.” Maybe that’s beside the point.
"It's our word against his word," Armstrong said instead. "I like our word. We like our credibility. Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago."
What about Armstrong or the cycling union? Do they have any credibility? Who believes any of them at this point anymore? Armstrong might like his credibility, but it's not like Landis is the only person saying the seven-time Tour champion is a doper.
That list is long and varied.But really… why now? Landis says he doesn’t expect anyone to believe him and it’s almost impossible for him to become a bigger pariah than he already is. The money is gone, his wife left, and his book is nothing more than a bunch of paper with words on them that are meaningless. Worse, he had to call up his mom in Lancaster County and tell her the truth.
What good is that going to do now? No team is going to hire him, the money isn’t going to come back and divorce is like toothpaste already out of the tube. When Armstrong said this morning that Landis has no credibility, it’s difficult to counter. That’s especially true when Landis admits that he does even have concrete proof and there is no paper trail or smoking gun—just some names, dates and details.
Truth? Who knows?
“I want to clear my conscience,” Landis told Ford. “I don't want to be part of the problem anymore.
“With the benefit of hindsight and a somewhat different perspective, I made some misjudgments. And of course, I can sit here and say all day long, ‘If I could do it again I'd do something different,’ but I just don't have that choice.”
No, there’s always a choice. Just because the world is a rat race doesn’t mean a guy has to be a rat. Just because a guy likes to ride his bike and play sports doesn’t mean he has to prostitute himself. Life is full of choices and a man lucky enough to have the mind to make a conscious choice is hard to feel sorry for.
But that doesn’t answer the question…
Why? Why now?
No, nothing has changed, aside, of course, for everything.