Floyd Landis Retires from Cycling

Floyd Landis, the embattled cyclist who won the 2006 Tour de France, only to be stripped of his title on allegations of taking performance enhancing drugs, has retired from cycling.

Landis has had a tumultous four years since that infamous win: after spending two years vehemently defending his Tour title and engaging thousands of supporters in what he said were false charges against him, and even writing a book called False Positive where he demonstrated his outrage, he later admitted that had indeed used performance enhancers.

Then in early 2010 Landis turned his aim at his former U.S. Postal colleagues whom he rode with from 2002 to 2004, most famously among them Lance Armstrong, whom he denounced publicly as alleged drug imbibers. Those allegations launched an investigation by Jeff Novitsky at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a man whose reputation proceeds him as a no-holds barred, pugnacious pursuer of  criminal prosecution.

The Pennsylvania Mennonite-born cyclist did not win any friends over the past few years with others in the cycling industry. In 2005 he was picked up by Phonak, whom he later admitted he convinced to allow him to engage in his own drugging routine to save his performance and his $500,000 contract.  It was with Phonak that he won the 2006 Tour, but lost his title when his blood tests showed evidence of synthetic testosterone.

In his admissions this summer that he had indeed drugged, Landis made mincemeat of his former employers. That team folded after the Tour scandal.

In 2009, Landis joined the Ouch team, but failed to bring any spectacular results, and in 2010, his team was denied admission to the Tour of California which he had aggressively sought. Meanwhile, Armstrong’s Team RadioShack had been invited and was racing the TOC, when Landis decided to go public with his allegations.

Landis had allegedly warned Johan Bruyneel, Team RadioShack directeur sportif in a conversation in September 2009, that if he were not admitted to Team RadioShack, he would come out publicly with damaging information about Lance Armstrong and his other previous teammates.

In a report by Newsweek, Landis also allegedly approached the California Tour director Andrew Messick two days before the news was announced, asking him to lunch.  Messick, said Landis told him he was planning to confess to doping and talked about other cyclists’ drug use, including Armstrong’s.

“[A] few weeks later Landis and a friend began e-mailing Messick and others, pleading that his team be allowed into the race—and hinting that damaging revelations about doping by Armstrong and others might be forthcoming.”

The attempt at blackmail did not work, Landis’ team was not invited to the TOC, and he then  followed through on his threat to make public statements about alleged doping by his former Postal teammates when the Tour of California was already in full swing.

Armstrong later crashed in stage 5 of the California race, and had to abandon the race 6 miles later because his eye had swollen shut. Landis almost seemed to enjoy his role in creating havoc among the cycling world, showing up at the California race where he was shunned and treated like a pariah.

Landis’ allegations continued throughout the summer of 2010, and now, with the bounty-hunter, bull dog style of Novitsky issuing subpoeanas on a daily basis to former colleagues for information leading to the disclosure of alleged cheating by Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor was having one of the worst Tours of his life. Armstrong crashed badly in several stages, and although never abandoning the 21-stage race, was clearly at least physically damaged in last year’s TDF.

Recently Landis was interviewed for seven hours by London’s Sunday Times journalist Paul Kimmage who later said he believed all of the cyclist’s allegations about doping because of their detail and that only “an absolute pyschopath” would be able to make that much detail up, according to a report by Cycling Weekly.

Last week in an interview with Dutch television station NOS, Kimmage said , “I would put my hand in the fire right now and say that Floyd Landis is, without question, telling the truth.” Kimmage has also called Armstrong “a cancer” in the past, referring to his role in allegedly perpetuating doping in the sport, according to a report by CyclingNews. Kimmage himself was a competitive cyclist who ended his career in 1986 and complained about doping in his book, Rough Ride.

So far however, there has been no supporting documentation, blood tests or other hard evidence that can support Landis’ claims. What’s more, many of his friends and supporters who led the charge when he was vehemently denying the TDF test results will never believe anything he says ever again after being burned for two years as suckers and idiots. Among them was the editor of Bicycling Magazine Loren Mooney who issued a public statement that she maintained on the site for months outlining her extreme disappointment in being hoodwinked by a person, who by all accounts, displayed many of the characteristics of a sociopathic liar.

Mooney had been helping Landis write his book False Positive, and had sunk months and months of her free time into the project. Why should we believe him now, she said:  “I wonder if he has all his facts straight after so many years of distorting the truth with such conviction that, on some level, he had to believe his own lies. Also, given his recent history, how can we know that he’s not now twisting the truth out of revenge or spite,” she wrote.

More about Landis at Benepe’s Bike Blog.