Tour de Farce: An Open Letter To Floyd Landis
I wanted to believe you, Floyd.
My word means more than yours.
That arresting 2006 Tour de France victory stunned and enthralled cycling enthusiasts on every continent, even casual sports viewers who wouldn't know a peloton if one circled their cul-de-sac.
Exhaustion consumed you on Stage 16. Maybe it was glycogen depletion, as several media outlets reported. That 182-km stage, the toughest of the 93rd Tour, featured four climbs, one of which was the competition's highest pass.
It began at Bourg-d'Oisans and ended at La Toussuire.
You lost the yellow jersey and 10 minutes no one thought you could get back. You fell to 11th.
Then, a resurgence for the ages made the impossible an inevitability.
That breathtaking 120-km breakway erased all but 30 seconds of Oscar Pereiro's lead. From finished to first, you sprinted past the Spaniard in the Stage 19 time trial.
You glided past the throng of anxious spectators awaiting the champion's arrival and into our hearts.
Doubts surfaced. Doctors wondered. Your fellow cyclists suspected foul play.
Humans cannot accomplish what you did on their own volition. They just can't.
The story was too perfect, too implausible.
The drug-related disqualifications of favorites Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich had already tarnished the race. How you won, then, fits the sport's state of tumult.
A urine sample taken after the 17th stage revealed an elevated level of testosterone. The allegations flew faster than you ever could on a course. The jury had reached its decision before any witnesses took the stand.
Pro cycling is infested with dopers and hypocrites. Why not use needles on the wheels instead of wires?
The Tour deserves better. So many riders won it the honest way. The thrill of the moment was enough. The challenge presented by the various slopes brought out the best in the all-time greats— from five-time winners Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckyx, to Miguel Indurain.
These days, many cyclists cannot start a mountain climb without a syringe. They inject deceit and shame into themselves and denigrate the spirit of fair competition.
You denied every charge with vehemence. You swore you did not break the rules and promised to prove your innocence.
There goes that "p" word again.
Even after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the decision to strip you of the 2006 crown and suspend you for two years, you insisted an imagined grudge was real.
You maintained that vicious backstabbers had forced an inculpable competitor to forfeit because the spectacular nature of the feat made them jealous.
Backstabber? Takes one to know one, Floyd.
You published a book, "Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour . " In it, you wrote what we wanted.
In time, you said, we would know you triumphed the clean way, that cycling's powers that be conspired to bring you down and assault your good name.
Like hundreds of thousands of other suckers, I coughed up $25 and read every stinking word.
A favorite paragraph from page 181 in the chapter "Having it All:"
"Immediately, I wanted to know all the specifics so I could figure out how the error was made. My first thought was that maybe it had something to do with the shots for my hip, that somehow the cortisone was tipping a drug test to show a false positive...
I had seen enough of these stories to know that even though it was just a mistake, once the media picked up the story it would be a disaster."
Or this line from page 185:
"I didn't have an answer."
This week, that story changed.
Yes, you say now, I did use performance-enhancing drugs to gain an advantage in the 2006 Tour.
All you did in proclaiming the latest version of the truth was expose yourself as a fraud— a soulless and spineless cheat.
Remember how you raised your arms in celebration after that exhilarating Stage 17 exhibition? I just folded mine in disgust.
Somehow, I cannot see you as the next Jose Canseco. Purposeful whistleblowers would not wait this long to admit wrongdoing. Canseco might have oozed slime when his tell-all book characterized some of pro baseball's finest as juicers.
It also brought the steroid issue to the forefront, where MLB chiefs could no longer ignore it.
How does this spin help cycling?
You led a scam for years. Congrats, Floyd, you conned us all.
Some supporters donated hard-earned money— oh, say, more than $1 million of it— to help you discredit the French anti-doping agency that discovered the positive test.
You described this to Jay Leno, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN, and everyone else in the world who would listen, as an unfair smear campaign.
That dear mother of yours sounded so broken by it all. She knew the test was a mistake. Just knew it. She would have sworn on a Bible.
My suggestion: schedule a colonoscopy, Floyd. You're full of crap.
Why now? Why do it this way? Why admit to living a lie? Why feign righteousness in the first place?
You once encouraged other riders to avoid giving urine samples until corruption within anti-doping agencies ceased.
Now, according to ESPN.com, you want to clear your conscience.
How nice. Do you have one?
You couldn't complete this long-awaited announcement without implicating others. Welcome to the intersection of cowardice and betrayal.
This revelation leaves dignity, integrity, and that good name you tried so hard to protect, in the dust.
Lance Armstong and Levi Leipheimer, you say now, also doped.
I cannot deny that billows of smoke usually lead to a fire.
The seven-time champion has dodged such accusations since his first Tour victory in 1999.
Armstrong will burn this way if proof he used performance-enhancing drugs ever emerges.
That's not the point, Floyd.
You didn't throw teammates under the bus. You threw them in front of it and told the driver to hug the gas pedal.
Floor it. Get em' all. If I must go down in flames, they should, too.
When you saw a limb move, you instructed the driver to back up and do it again.
I knew you were guilty, even if I wanted to believe otherwise. I bought the book in an exercise of naiveté , hoping a thorough read would convince me an irreproachable human being had indeed surged to an 89 second lead over Pereiro.
You led the Phonak team to both glory and disgrace in a week. The name befits the crime.
You're a phony. Those supporters you duped will never get a refund.
I could have spent that $25 bucks on a more useful item, such as a singing plastic fish, or a calculator that doubles as an FM/AM radio.
No one who watched the 2006 Tour will forget Stage 16, after which you surrendered the yellow jersey and those 10 minutes.
I know now, thanks to your admission, that you lost much more.
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