JOHN LEICESTER,AP Sports Columnist PARIS / In making explosive accusations that Lance Armstrong doped, Floyd Landis distracted attention from the ugly truth that he himself left a tornado-like trail of victims by lying and cheating for years before belatedly coming clean about his own use of banned drugs.
Toward the top of the very long list of people whom Landis conned, betrayed, soiled and wronged are the scientists and technicians at the anti-doping laboratory in France who first proved that the now disgraced cyclist was a drug cheat.
Landis and his defense dragged the laboratory and its staff through the mud after it found synthetic testosterone in one of the eight urine samples he gave at the 2006 Tour de France.
Not only did the Landis camp accuse the Chatenay-Malabry lab of botching the tests, of sloppy science and misconduct, but — far worse and more damaging — of dishonesty, too. Lab technicians who tested his urine were flown to California to be grilled by Landis’ lawyers in a hearing that eventually determined his guilt and nullified his 2006 Tour victory.
Landis sought to put the whole anti-doping system on trial, turning the tables on people who were simply doing their jobs. “The people doing the testing, the people accusing the athletes, are far more unethical than the athletes,” Landis said back then, when he was still living his lie. It is one of many Landis statements that now seem outrageous, even sickening, considering his sudden about-face last week.
Fans hold up signs about Floyd Landis during the final stage of the Tour of California cycling race, Sunday, May 23, 2010, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Landis recently admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, and made doping allegations against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)It’s a shame that Landis’ confession that he doped at the peak of his professional career, as a support rider on three of Armstrong’s seven winning Tours and after, came too late for Jacques de Ceaurriz. The director at Chatenay-Malabry died this January.
It bothered de Ceaurriz that his lab employees had been hurt and smeared. Had he been alive, the gravel-voiced anti-doping pioneer surely would have joined the celebrations that erupted at the Paris lab last week when Landis confessed, telling ESPN.com that he had used performance-enhancing drugs “in every Tour de France I ever did.”
“There were cries of joy,” says Francoise Lasne, de Ceaurriz’s longtime colleague who took over as testing director after his death.
The Landis case “was quite a traumatizing experience for the laboratory,” she told The Associated Press. “The number of questions, the justifications we were asked to supply, were incredible. They really tried to dirty the laboratory. … For some people, it was very tough.”
Among Landis’ other victims are those who shelled out $24.95 for his 2007 book, “Positively False, The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France.”
“I have nothing to hide,” the first chapter begins.
What a con.
Then there are all those who donated money for his legal defense. A $75 donation to the Floyd Fairness Fund earned a signed “thank you” note from Landis, $250 got a “Winning Fair and Square” poster, and a signed yellow jersey was promised for coughing up more than $1,000.
What a scam.
Those who worked for the fund are now keeping their heads low. One of them who doesn’t want to be named because “I want to move on with my life beyond Floyd Landis” said that what bothers him most now “is that we were out there publicly stumping to raise money for him.” The person says Landis has not called to apologize.
Nor, says Lasne, has he phoned the French lab. Perhaps that is not surprising: Landis would still be dialing years from now if he apologized to all of those he deceived, including the millions of spectators who watched him race in France and the other riders — some of them might even have been clean — who Landis beat.
Ultimately and saddest of all for cycling, Landis’ biggest victim may be the truth.
Had he confessed immediately in 2006 and not strung everyone along for years, then it might have been possible to believe his new story that Armstrong and others doped, too.
Telling the truth, Landis says, has lifted a weight off.
“I couldn’t believe how much better I felt,” he told ESPN.com.
But he is a crowd of one, the only person who feels any better. Because considering his long history of deceit, his word is now worth nothing on its own.