I’ve been in denial since last Saturday’s release of the second test of Floyd Landis’ sample which confirmed elevated testosterone levels after his epic ride on stage 17 of the Tour de France when he put himself back into contention after bonking the day before.
I had the same reaction in 2004 when Tyler Hamilton was banned from cycling following the results of his Athens Olympic blood test that showed someone else’s blood in his body. It’s a naive reaction on my part, a childish tendency to want to believe in heroes and give the benefit of the doubt, the old innocent-until-proven-guilty high sentiments that cynically seem to get dashed time and time again. Being the resident cycling fanatic, everyone aware of the Landis affair has asked me my thoughts, given my bipolar sadness and exultation during the Tour. At first I wanted to give Floyd the benefit of the doubt, now …
I love cycling, I think it is a magnificent sport, one that is incredibly dramatic in its alliances between rivals, its subtle strategy, and its superhuman demands on the riders. But …. there’s no denying the sport is rotten with doping, and while I wouldn’t begrude a rider an Advil to assuage an ache, I can’t condone EPO, testoterone, blood packing, and the other sophisticated techniques that are outright cheats and shortcuts around hardwork and training.
Will I continue to follow the sport? Yes. I believe there are clean cyclists in the sport. Perhaps the Landis debacle will persuade the remaining cyclists that there is no way to get away with doping, no way to dodge the labs, and the sport will return to some form of purity that it perhaps — as historians of the sport will point out — never existed.
We all want heroes, but in Floyd’s case, the story was too good to be true. I hope he exonerates himself, but I fear he’s going the way of Tyler Hamilton, proposing outlandish excuses while he name remains tarnished to the end.