(Cross-posted at RBJonesPhotography.com)
I remember watching Floyd’s amazing Stage 17 performance in the 2006 Tour de France live on television. I was dumbfounded and thrilled. When my wife got home, I showed her the entirety of the stage’s television coverage, watching along with her. We even sat on the couch together afterward as I read aloud the live-blogging entries of a writer for VeloNews whose blow-by-blow account of Landis’s shocking recovery and devastation of his opponents on that epic mountain stage. We laughed and reveled in the unexpected and unorthodox moves and the bewildered descriptions they elicited from commentators on tv and online.
Well… we probably all knew this day was coming. Not all of us, certainly. There were those who either wanted to believe bad enough, or who knew just enough about chemistry or medicine to be able to see a glimmer of possibility in the explanations that the test(s) [that showed his two types of testosterone levels to be too far apart] were a result of his body’s conversion of medication for his ailing hip. Alas. I had my strong suspicions, particularly since reading David Walsh’s book From Lance to Landis. Since then, I’ve considered everyone who had ever been a part of the US Postal team to have been part of a systematic doping program with Johan Bruyneel at its helm.
Much more after the jump. Click below...
Why would Landis say what he’s saying now? Because it’s true. And because he did exactly what so many other cyclists did. They won. They got paid millions and enjoyed superstar status. Floyd did all the work, took all the risks, and won the hardest victory there is in cycling, over opponents who were using the same doping techniques (some confirmed, some just presumed). But Floyd made a tiny mistake on the worst day possible. He somehow mismanaged the masking of the previous night’s standard (to most of the peloton I presume, or some whole teams I’m very confident) recovery regimen of a testosterone patch on the scrotum. He got caught. Caught for something that pales in comparison to his real doping regimen. But it cost him everything. He was cut loose, hung out, and backhanded by the sport’s omerta – the code of silence. And he was expected to play along.
So why come out now? Conscience? Sure. But I can’t dismiss revenge. And I can’t blame him. Most of the riders he’s implicated along with himself in his admissions are currently riding in the Amgen Tour of California. (For the uninitiated, I should point out the irony of Amgen’s title sponsorship of that race. Amgen developed and manufactures synthetic EPO, a drug that boosts red blood cells for treating anemia, kidney-disease, and cancer. But cyclists use it to increase the amount of oxygen their blood can carry. There may be no sport in which such a factor is more decisive in the advantage such doping can provide.) By disclosing his charges now, he casts a pall over the pinnacle of the racing season, as the “grand tours” commence. There is NO WAY this will all be settled or out of the news before the Tour de France, which Lance Armstrong will be trying to make a big splash in this year in his high profile comeback.
Remember, Floyd’s accusations are about 2002 & 2003 when Landis, Leipheimer, Zabriskie, Hincapie, and the rest were doping FOR Lance, to be his support team of supermen. (And blood doping is a long, expensive, sometimes risky [to health and career] process that impacts one’s whole training regimen.) I would be shocked if it weren’t required of them as a condition of employment on that team. Landis rode subservient for years in service to Armstrong. When he finally came out of the shadows and had a chance to lead his own team, start beating Lance is non-tour races, and then ride the tour with Lance retired… Floyd got pinged for a tiny (in relative terms) substance infraction. Lance was the king. Lance is once again the king. I think Floyd has finally had enough of pretending he can’t see that the king wears no clothes.
It’s a sad story. But I feel for Floyd. Being around him earlier this year was pleasant but a little uncomfortable. I admired him, but I’m glad the weird twilight is over. I prefer the darkness of this night. (Though Floyd might want to humbly apologize and make amends somehow to the supporters who contributed to his post-disqualification appeal process defense fund.) It means that for Floyd the man, he’s finally a step closer to a new day. But if (non-doper and harsh critic of dopers) Greg Lemond’s last decade is any indicator, Floyd’s proverbial night will be a long and cold one. Dopers suck, as they say. But journeys of redemption and personal renewal are something worth undertaking.