After years of proclaiming his innocence, 2006 Tour de France champion* Floyd Landis now admits that he doped.
He’s accusing Lance Armstrong of doping, too, and “not just Armstrong, but the flower of American cycling in the last decade, as well as two team managers, various other teammates and even the UCI [Union Cycliste Internationale]….” This includes, if you’re keeping track, riders like George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie, and Levi Leipheimer.
My reactions to this take several forms.
First, I hope Landis is OK. There is some suggestion that he isn’t right in the head, and since his 2006 Tour victory was stripped, it seems he’s suffered through a lot of crap. I read in various places that his father-in-law committed suicide, his marriage fell apart, and he’s become more withdrawn. As fans we know little about his actual emotional state, but if he’s emotionally unstable, I hope this admission is part of his getting healthy again, and not part of an accelerating emotional breakdown.
Speaking of which — there’s going to be a lot of folks who are going to want to convince us that Floyd Landis is crazy. See, et. al., Armstrong, Hincapie, Zabriskie, Leipheimer, and support staff like Johan Bruyneel. Stay tuned for more allegations from these individuals that “Landis is a complete whack job; of course I never doped.” And please take any further accusations like this from any interested party with a grain of salt.
Hopefully, with all these allegations flying around that are at least plausible (look at all the successful cyclists that have been caught dead-to-rights, and these guys that Landis names were beating those cheaters regularly), we will attempt again to have a discussion about what should and should not be permitted in the pursuit of athletic excellence. Maybe we should just let everyone dope, use steroids, inject nanobots, or whatever, so long as we can’t effectively identify who’s doing what. It seems like every successful cyclist in the past fifteen years either cheated or is suspected of cheating, so for the sake of results we can believe in: don’t make rules you can’t enforce.
Finally, do I think Armstrong used drugs? I refuse to speculate. Sure, he’s never been caught, but when you win the Tour de France seven times against people who are all on epo, it is plausible that you’re on epo too. Armstrong’s innocent until proven guilty, but I’m not one of those guys who’s gonna hitch my emotional wagon to Armstrong’s purity, either.
* His title was stripped after he was caught cheating.