Friday, January 2, 2009

Positively False?



While visiting the library last week – picked up the book ‘Positively False’ by Floyd Landis. While roaming the aisles, also found the 2006 Tour DVD by World Cycling Productions, turning the week into something of a Floyd Landis tribute – or investigation – depending on your take on things.

Unless you live in a cave or know nothing about cycling, Floyd Landis won the 2006 Tour de France, only to have the title stripped away after testing positive for synthetic testosterone. He’s since fought tooth and nail to regain the title and clear his name – unsuccessfully. After many hearings, lots of lawyers, and a ton of money, his battle with the WADA has failed. His two year ban from racing, justified or not, has ended, and Floyd will race in 2009 for the OUCH/Maxxis team.

Before diving into the book, my son Ian and I watched the Tour DVD – all four hours of it (we’re loopy). We also watched the original coverage in 2006. Seeing Stage 16, where Floyd bonks and loses the Yellow Jersey - followed by the infamous Stage 17 and his heroic break away that set the stage to reclaim the Yellow Jersey – was great. Stage 17 was the stage where he allegedly doped and was brought down. If that did not occur, Floyd’s comeback on the stage would have been Tour history – for all the right reasons.

The book was interesting, especially reading about Floyd’s Mennonite background and his eventual decision to leave to pursue a pro mountain bike career. His stories about not getting along on Team Postal and Lance Armstrong were interesting as well. Of course, he goes into detail about the 2006 Tour and his battle to clear his name. The book is worth reading, even without the doping aspect. Looking into what pro racers do to train, miles ridden, comeback from injury – such as his broken hip – is amazing.

Did he take testosterone? Who knows. I personally don’t think he did it. From his side of the story, battling a false allegation against the forces that be, seems to be impossible. From the time the book was written, he still had hope and was plowing full steam to clear his name. You need piles of money and time to defend yourself against something this. With his background, you would think if guilty, he would have confessed and taken his lumps – not go through what he has to clear his name. Why suffer through that time and expense? Floyd and his team also posted everything out on the Internet, much to the dislike of the WADA. If the WADA was confident of their case, they should welcomed the openness, not fought it.

Where I waver on the story is the Greg LeMond incident. It was in the press at the time, where Greg and Floyd communicated and Greg supposedly asked Floyd to tell the truth – that he doped. During the conversation, Greg admitted he was abused as a kid and holding the secret nearly killed him – as if Floyd holds this secret – no good will come out of it. Greg was then called to one of Floyd’s hearings as some sort of character witness. Before Greg’s testimony, someone on Floyd’s defense team called LeMond pretending to be the person that abused Greg, hoping to rattle him – or who knows what. Insane and incredibly stupid. It also put a huge negative impact on the Floyd team. It just added another bizarre soap opera twist to the story. Floyd explained what happened, but that whole aspect of the story put it over the top for me. Still, I don’t think Floyd doped.

When the book was released, Floyd did a book tour to promote the book and tell his story. I found out – the day after – he had been in Lake Forest Park, five minutes from my house. I would have checked that out for sure. Seeing and meeting someone for real can sway your opinion for sure. As Floyd was getting famous, I always got a kick out of his interviews. He came across as funny and sometimes goofy. Very different from the usual road racer. I’m not really one for celebrity worship or being star struck, but meeting Floyd for real would be cool.

In any case, this is all old history by now. It will be interesting to see how Floyd rides in 2009. Now that Lance is back, possibly seeing those two go head to head again, should make for fun year to be a pro cycling fan.

Don’t waste too much time watching the pros however – get out there yourself. That’s what really counts.

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