I was all set to pay homage to Floyd Landis, Tour de France winner. Bad hip and all, Landis did what seemed to be the improbable if not the impossible, losing eight minutes one day and getting almost all if it back the next. Then winning back the yellow jersey in the time trial and become the third American to win the Tour de France.
And now this: Landis is accused of doping to win stage 17.
His testosterone level in his “A” sample was too high according to the reports.
I say accused because testing always includes an “A” and a “B” sample for comparison purposes. Landis and his team, Phonak, say they’re completely surprised by the allegations and say they’re false. They’re waiting for the “B” test to prove his innocence, according to a statement on Phonak’s website.
An elevated testosterone level would indicate that he took something for recovery that would allow him to be stronger for the next stage. The timing would be right for extra testosterone for Landis, right after his “blow-up” and near miraculous recovery.
So there is one of four things going on.
- The test is wrong, just a mistake and he’ll be exonerated.
- He has an abnormally high level of testosterone (too high is a 4:1 ratio while normal males are at 1:1).
- The French press is on another witch-hunt.
- He cheated.
I’d have a tough time believing Landis cheated, but I also am the guy who thought Tyler Hamilton would be the last guy to try blood doping in order to win. But that’s just a little naive thought I suppose.
With the money involved, cheating is always part of the equation.
Of course, Lance Armstrong has been accused of doping and cheating and just about everything else ever since he returned from chemotherapy. And he’s the most tested athlete on the planet, with never a single positive result. If Armstrong cheated, it’s the best cover-up ever, and the biggest fraud perpetrated on sport in history.
But I don’t believe that and I don’t believe Landis is guilty either. He’s been around too long, he’s too smart and there’s too much at stake for him to take that chance. He knew from the beginning of the tour that he had a chance to win, with Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso in or out. He had great success in stage races at the beginning of the year and felt strong going into the Tour.
The thing that bothers me the most is the black-eye that cycling gets, again. The sport is great, it’s fun, it has a team aspect, uniforms, personalities and real competition. It’s been rife with drug use in the past but supposedly after 1998, that was cleaned up.
It’s fun to ride your bike and to see how you can ride and how your endurance stacks up on long ride. There’s nothing like seeing the countryside by bike, much different than a car and more expansive than walking. The sport is big in Europe, and in Belgium they’re crazy about it. But it doesn’t need a pro level of the sport to make riding your bike popular.
I like wearing the uniforms and kicking around on my bike, but if this proves to be true, they’re pushing the limits of me paying attention in the future. And I’m not alone. German public television is thinking about dropping their coverage if these allegations are proven and I can’t imagine OLN continuing to support cycling if everybody thinks it’s full of dopers.
Who’s going to buy advertising on that programming?
Part of the problem is the complicity over the years of dope testers, race organizers and competitors. The public needs to trust that everything’s on the up and up, or that it’s all dirty.
For that, we’re all waiting.