In 2006, he was totally and completely innocent—a clean rider from a pair of clean teams, mistakenly charged. “Positively False” was his now-smirkingly-appropriate campaign mantra. Then last year, his confessed his unequivocal guilt, and went on to catalogue in detail the transgressions of essentially every other cyclist he knew.
The past 24 hours produced a similarly unflinching turnaround. Yesterday, Landis announced he was retired. Among other choice soundbites from the de-jerseyed TdF champ: cleaning up cycling is “not my fight”; trying to get back into the sport is “more stress than it’s worth”; and finally, “I’m relatively sure this sport cannot be fixed, but that’s not my job”.
But then today? “[Y]ou’ve got to legalize doping“; “Just start over and let it be”; “Good people dope, bad people dope it’s just the way it was and the offence is not greater if you are an asshole or a saint”; “Monitor it and make sure people don’t hurt themselves”. Why, if the boy hadn’t just told me otherwise, I’d say he was was stressing about some sort of fight to fix the sport.
While I do like that Floyd is thinking outside the box, when a convicted doper claims “everybody else dopes and no one ever gets caught”, I still tend to view it with some skepticism. Surely Landis’ outburst today was brought on in part by news of the latest Armstrong allegations—but if there’s a message to be taken away from that piece—other than the implications of the HemAssist contingency, that is—it’s that the anti-doping authorities in the past have been woefully complicit in supporting dopers.
As loathe as I am to give him credit, Dick Pound’s tenure at WADA was a forceful and groundbreaking step in the fight against that sort of lassitude. Since Pound’s arrival, more top names than I can count—Floyd Landis included—have gone down to doping positives. While the UCI and national federations at times leave a great deal to be desired, I’ve noted before that the overall trend is moving, ever more rapidly, in the right direction.
Instead of throwing his arms up in defeat, Floyd might want to consider the likely outcomes of today’s SI story. Popvych is probably going up the river—the slow pace of Italian justice not withstanding—and Don Catlin, who admits the odds against failing to confirm Armstrong’s three testosterone positives are lottery-ticket long, will likely be out of at least one job next year.
Bonnie Ford expects charges against Armsrong/Tailwind Sports about halfway through this year, and even Victor Conte and Around the Horn (15:25) are now suspicious of Armstrong. And need I remind you that the winner of three of the last four Tours currently has his head on the chopping block?
Unless Landis knows something we don’t, this sure doesn’t feel like the moment to say that “you’ve got to legalize doping” or that “cycling cannot be fixed”—not with the best-known and most deeply suspected rider in recent memory staring at a criminal indictment. The cynical reader might be inclined to think that Floyd’s attitude stems more from his own unemployed frustration than genuine concern for the sport or its athletes.