Posts Tagged ‘doping’

Doping transparency in cycling: celebrating Floyd Landis

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Floyd Landis the bicycle rider finally came clean yesterday. He admitted he’s been taking performance-enhancing drugs his entire professional career, including the year he won the Tour de France (2006), got caught and was disqualified. He gave specifics of his doping activities (EPO, human growth hormone, blood transfusions) in emails to cycling authorities and former teammates, and has now spoken to ESPN on the subject. He also ratted on several other bikers, including his former team leader Lance Armstrong, explaining that Lance taught him how to do it.

Hurray for Floyd Landis, I say. At last, a star (albeit tarnished) athlete had the courage to break the conspiracy of silence that surrounds cycling. Transparency at last! Now, the process of co-creating the future of the sport can start in earnest, with collective denial out of the way. Finally, bikers, sponsors, sport regulators and the press can interrupt their shameful co-dependent embrace. Journalists can stop feeding their readers cancer-survival myths about Armstrong rather than write about the evidence that has been mounting against him for years (a sulfuric Italian doctor, testimonial of a team nurse, tests whose results have been known but never made official for procedural reasons, a systematic peloton intimidation toward anybody expressing doubt about Lance’s integrity). Sports regulators can feel excited that their role has now been legitimized.  Good reputable sponsors can step back in – most of the good ones have left – knowing their names won’t be muddied any longer by repeated scandals. And young athletes can now join the sport, knowing that it now has a level playing field.

So everybody’s waking up humbled this morning and doing his mea culpa, right? Well, not quite. Since I was in transit between Boston and Paris, I watched what people say in both countries about the Floyd Landis revelation. Believe it or not, most articles and TV segments so far express doubt about Landis’ motivation and truthfulness. Landis has not helped his case by spending four years and $2 million fighting the allegation and his disqualification from the 2006 Tour de France, including a book on the topic. So, he’s not exactly been jumping out of the redemption starting gate, but better late than never! There’s probably some revenge motivation in Landis, but like mafia witnesses, we shouldn’t expect him to only have pure intentions. And he may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he can describe a syringe when he sees one.

A fellow called Pat McQuaid, head of Union du Cycliste International (UCI), the organization charged with regulating cycling and enforcing its performance-enhancing drug policies at the international level, was telling anybody who’d listen last night that Landis was not to be believed. UCI has been out to lunch for years on the doping issue and if it were not for cops in a few countries and some national federations stepping in, we’d have even more junkies in cycling than we do now. Why would UCI attempt to discredit Landis if not to excuse their own incompetence over the last 20 years?

The cycling system is so broken that nobody’s even attempting to reinvent the sport as it should be. We need to put in a room a small cadre of honest people that includes some riders and managers, a few sponsors, a few race organizers, a few regulators and medical people, and a few journalists who care. It’s time to co-create the new cycling ecosystem. Let me recommend they invite Floyd Landis to the first meeting to get them focused on the right issues.

OK, enough about this European sport nobody cares about! Time for some baseball! Big Papi, Matsuzaka, Boston Globe writers, Boston Red Sox management, Senator Mitchell – it’s your turn to come clean and tell us what you really know.