Little substance in Landis’s sensational doping accusations

Floyd Landis, disqualified winner of the 2006 Tour de France and former teammate of Lance Armstrong, has levelled a series of damning accusations relating to the use of performance-enhancing drugs by top cyclists and their teams, including Armstrong.

Testimony and evidence, but no actual proof?

In an article published in today’s Wall Street Journal, it is revealed that Landis has sent a series of emails to cycling officials outlining both his own systematic use of performance-enhancing drugs during his career, and naming other riders who also doped. The emails also alleges that other riders and team personnel participated in doping, including Armstrong and other top American cyclists George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie, all current or former teammates of the seven-time Tour de France winner.

Landis sent emails sent to officials of cycling’s international governing body (UCI) and USA Cycling dated between April 30 and May 6. In these messages he admits being guilty of doping, having vociferously protested his innocence ever since his disqualification after his apparent victory in the 2006 Tour De France. He had provided a positive drugs test following stage 17, a stage he had won by over five minutes after a stunning 120km solo breakaway on a difficult mountain stage to Morzine. His test results showed synthetic testosterone in his system, and a ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone nearly three times the limit allowed by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules. He subsequently served a two-year ban which ended in January 2009, despite taking an appeal all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Landis claims that he and other riders on Armstrong’s US Postal squad learned how to conduct blood transfusions, take the banned blood booster EPO, and use steroids, human growth hormone and testosterone patches. US Postal directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel was, he claims, instrumental in this practice, as was Armstrong.

“He and I had lengthy discussions about it on our training rides during which time he also explained to me the evolution of EPO testing and how transfusions were now necessary due to the inconvenience of the new test.”

Having left US Postal for Phonak in 2005, Landis then claims he convinced the team’s owner Andy Rihs to establish and pay for a similar doping operation at his new team.

Landis kept detailed training journals throughout his career, including records of his drug usage and techniques, which he has offered to share with US anti-doping authorities. However, he appears to offer no verifiable evidence to support his accusations against other riders.

The final act of an already condemned man?

Landis’s exact motivations remain unclear. He says it was simply time for him to come clean, citing a desire to heal his psychological and emotional scars.

“I want to clear my conscience. I don’t want to be part of the problem any more.”

He also acknowledges that part of his motivation stems from the fact that WADA’s statute of limitations on doping offences is eight years. Coincidentally, Landis says his first use of performance-enhancing drugs was in June 2002 – almost exactly eight years ago.

“Now we’ve come to the point where the statute of limitations on the things I know is going to run out or start to run out next month. If I don’t say something now then it’s pointless to ever say it.”

Landis’s ban and subsequent appeals cost him not only his Tour win (and the commercial benefits that go with it), but also effectively left him penniless and divorced. His allegations are certainly headline-grabbing, accusing the most successful rider of recent times and his team of systematic doping. Some will choose to believe his words; after all, this is hardly the first time doping mud has been slung at Armstrong. Many, as Landis freely admits, will not.

I choose to take Landis’s claims with a very large pinch of salt. Conveniently, he admits he has no verifiable documented evidence to back up his claims. To me, it all smacks of bile and depression from a man who risked and lost everything; one lashing out one final time at a world which spat him out and left him broken and penniless.

Don’t get me wrong. There is more than a hint of credibility to his claims of continued drugs use in cycling. I have no doubt that, despite the serious investments in anti-doping procedures by the sport’s authorities, cycling is now cleaner and yet far from clean, as a steady stream of positive results and bans will testify. This in itself is hardly news. Nonetheless, this is another blow for a sport which has done more than perhaps any other to clean up its act in pursuing and punishing any and all offenders – including Landis. Call me a cynic, but I don’t put much weight behind the words of a convicted man just because he has decided to turn himself into a witness for the prosecution.


About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

One Response to Little substance in Landis’s sensational doping accusations

  1. Pingback: Lucky 13 for Cancellara as Wiggins’ gamble backfires « The armchair sports fan

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