I think it's pretty safe to say that we can add cycling to the long list of international events that most Americans don't give a damn about unless an American has a chance at winning, or unless there's a scandal (the other sports being World Cup soccer and all the events in both the winter and summer Olympics). And it looks like this year's Tour de France - and its winner American Floyd Landis - has both. God I love a good scandal. Well, this isn't really a good scandal, but I like it anyway.
After accusations that Landis had unusually high testosterone levels the Associated Press reported that "a positive doping test has cast doubt on one of the most stirring Tour de France comeback victories in history. Even if it turns out he is innocent, the American cyclist expects the disgrace will linger a long, long time." Or until another American wins and everyone forgets who Landis is, or mistakes him for Lance Armstrong.
There is the possibility that the Associated Press might be giving too much credit to the allegations. Most winners of, well, anything get accused of having some sort of performance enhancer. Sooner or later Gatorade is going to be frowned upon.
But wait, it gets better. Here's Landis via teleconference: "All I'm asking for is that I be given a chance to prove I'm innocent. Cycling has a traditional way of trying people in the court of public opinion before they get a chance to do anything else." I agree that he deserves a chance to prove his innocence, but that second part, wow, um, I hate to break it to you Floyd, but pretty much everything that happens anywhere has judgment passed on it before there's a chance to prove innocence. Cycling isn't getting any unfair treatment...unless you think that judging a person based on your own feelings and not on the facts is wrong, then, yeah, you're getting treated unfairly. JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE! It sucks. But you are a champion. If you are innocent, the tests will show that.
Actually, it would be a second test that would prove it, since the first already showed unusually high testosterone levels. What could cause this (testicle jokes aside)? I dunno, the Metallica in his iPod? Controlled substances?
Further investigation showed that "Landis had an exemption from the Tour to take cortisone shots for pain in his hip, which will require surgery for a degenerative condition, and was taking an oral medication for hyperthyroidism." This guy's hip is disappearing so what does he do: the most grueling bicycle marathon in the world? I have two good hips and I get tired watching the Iron Chef on Food TV...and this guy goes out and cycles 3,607 kilometers (2,241 miles). Smart; maybe they should include an IQ test along with that toxin screening.
Landis continued, "As to what actually caused it on that particular day, I can only speculate." I know what you're thinking, but Greg Anderson was still in jail when the test was done.
All joking aside, Landis also has a family to think about when it comes to these accusations. It's not fair that a guy's family members should have to live with rumors, unless of course they make ridiculous public statements like, "Lance (Armstrong) went through this, too. Somebody doesn't want him to win." You mean besides the 150 or so cyclists who didn't win?
So what will be the impact if Landis is, in fact, guilty? I don't know. He'll get a spot on Hollywood Squares? Maybe he'll be a Trivial Pursuit question? At this point, is it really possible to make American sports look much worse? We've got a bit of everything: alcohol (Ty Cobb and Bode Miller - he was the drunken Olympic skier), weed (Ricky Williams), crack (Lawrence Taylor), steroids (mostly suspicion), and a mix of everything (Darryl Strawberry). At this point the surprise isn't when our greatest athletes become champs...it's when we get back clean blood tests.