You’ve read that recent San Diego county resident and convicted dope cheater Floyd Landis announced — by way of e-mails to sponsors, media, and sports officials — that he used banned drugs during his cycling career. So did, he claimed, Lance Armstrong, three-time Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer, and five-time national time-trial champion David Zabriskie.
His was a premeditated accusation — excuse me, a premeditated confession meant to screw the Tour of California, which refused to invite his minor-league team (Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling) to this year’s race. Landis aimed to cause maximum damage to the tour and selected riders by publicizing his allegations in the middle of the event. His revelations were not about coming clean, easing his conscious, or whistle-blowing.
But, as any cop will tell you, justice is a messy business. So, the fact that Landis admitted his guilt while ratting out at least 16 former friends, colleagues, and teammates doesn’t mean that what he said about them was untrue. In fact, given pro cycling’s history, you’d have to give the points and take the true side of the proposition.
But, it’s one thing to admit guilt (Landis is already banished from Bike World; he literally has nothing left to lose there) and another to actively sic cops on aforementioned former friends, colleagues, and teammates. The AP and Wall Street Journal report that Landis is cooperating with the Food and Drug Administration’s criminal investigations unit and has met with FDA special agent Jeff Novitzky, who made his bones as the lead investigator in the BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative ) case.
Tour of California race director Andrew Messick, who was interviewed here a few weeks back, said Landis told him, “I’ve been living a lie. I can’t sleep at night. I have to ease my burden, so I’ve got to tell the truth about what I’ve done.”
Yes, truly nauseating in that special, smarmy, self-serving way, but that part didn’t get to me. It doesn’t bother me that he lied about doping. Doesn’t bother me that he appealed and appealed his doping conviction. That’s what money and lawyers are for. You can understand. He’d seen everyone else dope. He wanted money and fame no less than they. So he cheated. And he got caught. It’s only normal human hypocrisy to become jealous of other cheaters as they sail on undisturbed.
Even trying to bring former friends and colleagues down is within the range of normal human misbehavior. The far end of the range, perhaps, but an accepted part of the human experience. What does bother me — and I’m amazed so few have written about this — is how Landis lied to his fans and admirers.
Do you remember the Floyd Fairness Fund? Go over to YouTube and run a search. The first hit is a March 2007 video of Floyd talking about his fairness fund. The parts of the video that interest me are shots of him at what looks to be a restaurant. He’s standing in a makeshift holding area talking to two women. You hear him being introduced, “All of you, welcome the 2006 Tour de France champion, Floyd Landis!” He straightens his shoulders and walks toward bright lights and sustained applause. Landis has his “I’m innocent” spiel memorized, he has his foundation executive director there, he has his foundation chairman there, he’s posing for pictures, he’s signing autographs, he’s working the room.
This is personal. It’s the lying to the people standing right in front of you and lying one person at a time that fascinates. Reports say Landis raised $1 million to $2 million. How many bike shops, shopping malls, county fairs, restaurants, neighborhood pubs, book signings, festivals, and fairs did he pass through? How many? 1000? 2000? He lied at every one of them. How many media interviews — 500, 1000, 5000? Years of it. You’d have to be crazy to do that.
But, on the other hand, there are a lot of crazy people out there. So, that didn’t get to me although it was a near miss. What got me were two incidents.
First, allowing his mother to talk to the press and tout his innocence. Second, holding a benefit for himself at the Ephrata (Pennsylvania) Performing Arts Center. This was his hometown crowd. He drew 300 people that day. Many were boyhood friends and neighbors. And he lied to them. And he took their money. He didn’t need to do that. The continent is filled with shopping centers; he didn’t have to go back home and take money from those who were closest to him and had supported him no matter what.
Compared to that, betraying cycling friends is nothing.