Landis aims to take others down with him

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On the eve of a 2007 arbitration hearing to clear his name, disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis and his manager, Will Geoghegan, sat at a kitchen table, worried about the potential testimony of cycling great and outspoken anti-doping advocate Greg LeMond.

Years prior, LeMond had confided in Landis. LeMond said that, as a child, he’d been sexually abused by an uncle. LeMond said that keeping it bottled up “nearly destroyed” him.

Landis had told LeMond’s secret to Geoghegan, who that night called LeMond up and pretended to be LeMond’s old pedophilic uncle.

“He said ‘Hi Greg, this is your uncle … and I’m going to be there tomorrow,’ ” LeMond later testified. “I said, ‘Who is this?’ He said, ‘I’m going to be there and we can talk about how we used to hide your weenie.’

“I figured this was intimidation,” LeMond said.

LeMond traced the call back to Geoghegan, who admitted what he’d done. Then LeMond refused to be intimidated. He showed up and spoke, so incensed at the tactics of Team Landis that he was willing to reveal to the world his most painful, private secret.

Landis acknowledged he knew, prior to the hearing, what Geoghegan had done. They even discussed what to do after the call had been made. So rather than immediately firing, condemning or simply beating the crap out of his manager, Landis contemplated the next step. He then waited to find out if LeMond would testify before distancing himself from Geoghegan. Hey, you never know if witness intimidation via memories of childhood sexual abuse might actually work.

Yes, that’s the scumbag known as Floyd Landis. He’s as pathetic as any sports figure to come down the line, or riding over an Alp, in years.

Floyd Landis (left) accused seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong (right) of doping.
(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

And now, of course, Landis has turned rat, trying to cast attention away from his recent admission of guilt by slinging mud at others – most notably former teammate Lance Armstrong. Landis alleges Armstrong not only used performance-enhancing drugs but taught him how to use them as well.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Landis had finally said what anyone with half a brain already knew: He was a serial doper during his cycling career.

That means he indeed deserved to be stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title and that his subsequent attack-dog defense was nothing but a maniacal, self-serving, face-saving lie.

A lot of athletes have used PEDs to succeed. When caught, a lot of athletes have vehemently denied using them. It happens. No one, however, waged a war of character assassination, reckless behavior and craven duplicity like Floyd Landis.

That’s what sets him apart.

“[Armstrong] and I had lengthy discussions about it on our training rides during which time he also explained to me the evolution of EPO [which increases red blood cells and, in turn, stamina] testing and how transfusions were now necessary due to the inconvenience of the new test,” Mr. Landis wrote in an email to various cycling officials which the Journal obtained.

This is Landis in his supposed new role of cycling crusader, the defender of truth and justice.

Armstrong, of course, has been dogged by doping rumors for years although he’s never failed a test and has always maintained his innocence. Landis’ claims, according to the Journal, can’t be independently verified. That Armstrong just breezily and brazenly discussed his doping regime on bike rides is questionable.

What Landis has and will allege may be true. It may not.

Those inclined to believe Armstrong cheated to win a record seven Tour de France titles will seize on the details. Those who believe in Armstrong’s innocence will discredit Landis because, well, he’s Landis.

The Pennsylvanian has given no reason for anyone to believe him, and that’s where the focus of this story should remain – on Floyd Landis. He humiliated himself with ridiculous theories on his innocence: A high testosterone test was the result of knocking back shots of Jack Daniels, Landis once claimed with a straight face. He wrote an intelligence-insulting book, aptly titled “Positively False.”

He turned charlatan and duped fans into donating to his estimated $2 million defense against anti-doping agencies. He tried to hide behind his humble parents and his upbringing in the proud Mennonite church by claiming that, since the good people of the religion have a well-earned reputation for honesty and ethics, he couldn’t possibly lie or cheat.

“It’s a matter of who I am,” Landis testified at a 2007 hearing. “It wouldn’t serve any purpose for me to cheat and win the Tour because I wouldn’t be proud of it.” And now?

“I want to clear my conscience,” Landis told ESPN. “I don’t want to be part of the problem anymore.”

How convenient.

There’s more, of course. Much more. His defense often centered on publicly tearing apart the credibility, motives and morals of cycling officials, anti-doping agents and even laboratory scientists. His vast army of followers would then attack some more.

These officials, it turns out, acted properly the entire time. Landis created immense hardship and lasting wounds on people who were just doing their job by trying to clean up cycling.

So forget about Floyd just accepting the blame, taking the heat and offering up a slew of apologies to everyone he went after through the years. That would take courage. Instead, he’s dragging Armstrong, their former coaches and half of U.S. Cycling into the trash with him as a diversionary tactic.

You have to be naïve to think competitive cycling was on the up and up over the past 15 or so years. The sport was obviously overrun by PEDs. Armstrong remains popular, though, because of his heroic defeat of cancer and the hope his story gave folks relegated to chemo wards around the world.

Naturally, Landis has accepted little blame for his actions. He instead whined about the culture of cheating in cycling, which is no doubt extensive but speaks to his narcissism.

“I don’t feel guilty at all about having doped,” Landis told ESPN. “I did what I did because that’s what we [cyclists] did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 years or 12 years of hard work to get there, and that was a decision I had to make to make the next step.”

This is a cop-out. The truth is that some great cyclists didn’t dope and, as a result, they never got a chance to race at the elite level. They were left behind. We never heard of them. They didn’t get the chance to prove, with clean blood, that they were the best in the world.

To say everyone was doing it isn’t true. Just all the cheats were cheating.

At least the cyclists who did their best naturally still have their dignity. Even dopers who eventually came clean without trying to crush everyone in their path have some.

Floyd Landis doesn’t. Like that Tour title, it’s been stripped and will never return.

All he’s about is a too-late blame game: If he’s going down, so is everyone else. It’s typical for this clown.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, May 20, 2010