One of the big cycling stories of the day and probably the rest of the week is the Paul Kimmage interview with Floyd Landis. Over the course of seven hours Kimmage dug into not only the former pro racer’s background but the motivation behind why he doped. On Twitter I posted a link to the story and got back mixed responses. Some people re-posted my Twitter post (“Retweeted” it in Twitter lingo) and one replied “SSDD” and another “who cares.” Sure, if you look strictly at the story and read it literally there wasn’t anything new. He admitted to doping during his time at Postal and then carrying on that practice at Phonak. We’ve already read in the Wall Street Journal about the story of the Postal team bus stopping on the side of a mountain road so the team could dope.
To those who have been following the Landis story some aspects weren’t new. We already knew about his personal drama following the 2006 Tour de France. However, I really think the Landis interview goes deeper than just him spilling his guts about organized doping during the Postal team days. The story that unfolds in the Kimmage interview is something we can all relate to on some level.
Who among you have never made a mistake you wish you could take back? Yeah, I didn’t think so. And yes, your mistake was probably not on the scale of two-million dollars and played out on a worldwide stage. Landis’ story goes beyond his own mistakes, but includes promises to him that were broken. It’s about being screwed over by the system – I think everyone can relate to that. Many people have felt that sense of despair and belief that they think they’ve hit rock bottom only to fall deeper.
“I’m stuck in the middle between chasing something and running from something and at the same time trying to be content. That’s what I want, and I know how to do it, it’s just that I’ve got myself into a situation where things have to be done before I can get there, that’s all,” says Landis. Wrestling with failures and trying to be content with our lives are common struggles.
I’m not writing this piece to convince you to believe Landis’ story. That’s up to you. However, I think the government might be closing in on their version of the truth soon. Whatever the Feds do, Landis’ story is one that on some level we can think a little deeper about – it’s more than just doping to win bike races.
Less than one hundred men have won the Tour de France. But how many among us have had to deal with the gut wrenching pain of relationships ending? An unexpected death of a friend or family member? Landis’ story doesn’t have a happy ending right now and it may never have that riding off into the sunset moment – but that’s life and it’s not fair. This interview puts it all out there and shows that these riders are just men trying their best to make a living in a sport where the rules of conduct were fuzzy at best.
So if you already read the complete interview and just threw up your arms in disgust, go back and re-read it. You’re missing the real context of the story if you don’t. And don’t just have a knee-jerk reaction that the sport is beyond repair. Like Kimmage I think that cycling is a beautiful sport that is unfortunately run by people more concerned with covering each other’s backs and not looking at the long term good of the sport. That said I know as soon as racing is back on Versus, I’ll be watching. I’m hoping it’s run cleanly and fairly, but I’m not naïve either. We will have riders testing positive for doping and riders we hold to be the pinnacle of truth will come crashing down. We as fans of cycling need to enjoy the sport and remember why we do it in the first place. Sure pro riders might have inspired you to ride in the first place. However, don’t let their failures tarnish your view of the sport. Continue to cheer on the latest generation of champions and be inspired by the great moments they create.