Friday, July 28, 2006
I couldn't have said it better
Today's Report: 27 Jul 2006
Phil Liggett on Floyd Landis
My first reaction to the news that Floyd Landis had "doped up" during the 17th stage of the Tour de France between St Jean de Maurienne and Morzine was one of extreme sadness, and it posed the huge question: "Why?"
In Strasbourg at the Grand Depart, the Tour had seemingly handled the sending home of pre-race favorites Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Juan Mercado among others well and the stage was set for "the cleanest Tour in years."
The organizers had sent out a clear message that dopers would not be tolerated, even though those sent away left protesting their innocence and, in fact, still do. Indeed, at least four of the rejected Astana-Wrth team have been proven innocent by a Spanish court this week, but the race's hardening attitude had once again been demonstrated.
This year's Tour seemed to be being ridden "clean" as riders had good days and bad, something which doesn't always happen if the drugs are kicking in. Landis himself, collapsed on stage 16 to La Toussuire in the Alps and then, re-hydrated overnight, he won the fateful stage 17 to Morzine by almost six minutes.
Even seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong was moved to call Landis at his hotel that night and congratulate him at "having big balls" to do what he had done after such a defeat 24 hours earlier.
There are many questions to be answered before Landis is condemned.
The first is why win the stage knowing that the winner is automatically drug tested and when finding unusual testosterone levels in a testing laboratory is a comparatively easy thing to do!
Landis would have also been tested at least three times previously as race leader, too, and these presumably have been negative as only stage 17 is under discussion.
The quiet, but very determined American was genuinely happy for his team and its owners when he finished at Morzine. He arrived punching out at helpers and media after he crossed the finish line. He had turned in the result which only 24 hours earlier was thought to be impossible.
Landis had never failed a drug test in his career and this season was enjoying his best ever run of victories, all of which would carry compulsory drug tests. His wins in America and France since February have all been achieved despite a dying femur bone which will mean a replacement hip in the immediate future.
He suffers pain daily when walking and sleeping but not, ironically, so much when racing. As winner of the Tour de France he could have expected his annual earnings to move into the multi-million dollar bracket, even though there is the risk that his hip operation will mean he might never race at the same level again.
They say that drugs have been in cycling for more than 100 years. At first it was simply alcohol, and a tot of brandy did wonders on a long climb in adverse weather. Then came amphetamines, traces of which were found in Britain's Tom Simpson when he died on Mont Ventoux in Provence during the Tour in 1967.
Now, with the help of unscrupulous medical experts, growth hormones, steroids and blood changing is available for those who can afford it. But the doping agencies, International Cycling Union and the Tour de France all agree that drugs must be stamped out and the fight will go on.
The Tour de France has been "saddened" by yesterday's revelations, but the second test has still to confirm the first. There is a possibility that Landis has over-produced testosterone and if so I hope he will be completely vindicated.
If, however, he is guilty, then he will lose the Tour de France, receive a life ban at the Olympics, a two-year ban from the sport and a four-year ban from riding on a Pro Tour team. In short, he will never race again.
All for Now,
Phil Liggett,The Voice of Cycling
One thing I don't get: Everyone says that cycling is dirty. Is it dirty because it's the only sport actually doing something about it, unlike football and especially, baseball?