Relating to the uncommon story of Floyd Landis

Landis and the Harley-Davidson

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.

At the Tour of California

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.

18 Responses to “Relating to the uncommon story of Floyd Landis”

  1. neilroad January 31, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    My take on the Kimmage/Landis itv. It’s more than just doping.

    • The_JoESilva January 31, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

      RT @neilroad: My take on the Kimmage/Landis itv. It’s more than just doping.

    • nyvelocity January 31, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

      RT @neilroad: My take on the Kimmage/Landis itv. It’s more than just doping.

    • lukeboote January 31, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

      RT @neilroad: My take on the Kimmage/Landis itv. It’s more than just doping.

    • ifiiky1 January 31, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

      @neilroad nicely written

    • zmaulik January 31, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

      @neilroad Nicely done. I can’t help but feel sorry for Landis. A great talent who had it spiral on him.As always, thanks for your insight.

    • smithme2 February 1, 2011 at 12:44 am #

      @neilroad I agree totally with your comments. The interview paints the picture of a deeply HUMAN and moving unfolding of events.

    • lyndamoyer February 1, 2011 at 6:31 am #

      RT @neilroad: My take on the Kimmage/Landis itv. It’s more than just doping.

  2. Roxanne King January 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    The disheartening aspect to this article is that my belief that cycling was at least trying to clean itself up – as opposed to American football or European football or tennis – is apparently not true. The underlying message is that of baseball in the 1990s: The owners, the sponsors, and the UCI are more interested in achieving Higher Faster Stronger results than in having clean athletes. They pay public lip service to having a drug-free sport, and then richly reward those who scoff at the rules and succeed. The sponsors and UCI bear no risk in this equation; only the riders themselves are punished when an athlete tests positive for a banned substance. It puts the rider in an untenable situation, as Landis describes: In order to be at the top of the game, one must guard against the opponent who cheats through performance-enhancing drugs, and the only way to do that is to use them oneself. The teams tacitly encourage this situation – they have nothing to lose if a rider tests positive, and everything to gain if the rider dopes and gets away with it.

    This situation will continue until the teams and sponsors are punished along with the riders.

    Bruce Schneier has said it better than I can:

    • Juls January 31, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

      Beautifully written and well said, Neil. I am really glad Landis and Kimmage sat down to talk with open minds.

  3. Matt Koch January 31, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    The article in Bicyling mag this month about the new kids really had me inspired. I’ve been following Taylor for a couple years now. I can’t wait to see these guys in Europe over the next decade. Could be fun!

  4. Drew McIntosh January 31, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    It will probably take me 7 hours to read the entire interview. however I will finish it. It is a great insight to the back ground of Floyd Landis, his up bringing and his love of cycling together with the exposure of the outside world and all the pressures that he must have felt. I am reading Joe Parkins ‘Dog in the Hat’ right now and having read Joe’s take on the racing scene you can see how rampant doping was and likely still is. There’s money to be made by the sponsors and I am sure the pressure from the sponsors is likely very high. Now take Landis, coming from his cultural background and trying to fit in to the ‘outside’ world, and I can imagine that the pressure to fit in and win was paramount. And then guilts he endured and the hiding of the wrong doings from his family… that must have eaten him up. You have to congratulate him for finally confessing. He is a better man now for all that he has experience, done and been through. Now Floyd can write his book with Kimmage’s help.

  5. anita franklin January 31, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    I felt sick to my stomach while reading the full interview. Knowing what you’ve done is wrong and having to explain it to a billion people after getting congratulated by the president can’t be easy. Having said that, I don’t think I’ve ever felt the need to go after something at all costs, so I don’t think I can grasp the “why” he chose to go that route. He truly seems sorry at the hurt and anguish that his choices have caused. I hope he can find another path and find some peace.

  6. Joe Kelly February 1, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    Great perspective, Neil. Thanks. Personally, if anyone gets flamed in this whole Landis/Armstrong/Fed opera, I hope it’s the UCI. I’ve really come to believe that they had the opportunity to make things better. But they are either culpable or incompetent. Either way they are part of the problem, and not the solution.

  7. JD February 2, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    Nicely put Neil. The Kimmage interview provides a great deal of insight and does, in a way, allow you to put yourself in his position. Thanks

  8. strbuk February 3, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    Best piece you’ve done in a long time, thanks!

  9. @BlameItOnFloyd December 30, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    @DanKalbacher Read this. It’s good stuff. You can trust @neilroad ‘s journalistic integrity.

Leave a Reply