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Amber Landis: The Interview, Part Three
 
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 11/2/2006
Amber Landis: The Interview, Part Three
 

Part three, conclusion. In parts one and two Amber has talked us through Floyd's bad day, his good day and his epic win at the 2006 Tour de France. Once the phone call came informing them of the positive test, Amber's story has become one of disbelief, hiding and urgency as they struggled to figure out what could have happened. Part three continues in Madrid, Spain, where Floyd held his first press conference.


By now you had called your mom and told her you were staying in Europe. Had you talked to Ryan? Had you tried to tell her?

No, she was here in the neighborhood, staying with a friend. Reporters were coming into our community, bugging the neighbors, asking them what we were like as neighbors! I'm not so sure what that has to do with whether he's a doper or not! Ryan was safe; she had no idea. School wasn't in yet and she was at horseback camp so she had no idea what was going on. I sent a big text message out to everybody telling them there was some crap being said right now and to not believe it, that we were working on it and that we were safe and would be home soon.

So your neighbors were having to deal with the crush of reporters?

Yeah, the neighbors and a few reporters had gone down (to San Diego) to my mom and David's restaurant to get input there. It was crazy.

Friday (in the USA) is when Floyd was on Larry King Live. I thought he was good on that.

Yeah, it was really late at night, like 2AM. There were a bunch of conference calls all that day trying to figure out things. (Dr.) Brent (Kay) was trying to figure out what could have made this happen. It was crazy. Floyd was on Larry King and ESPN and we'd had that stupid press conference earlier in the day. That was a big mix-up too. Initially it was supposed to be a big press conference but then they said they couldn't get everyone to Madrid in time. It was going to be just a few reporters to get something into the newspaper.

We walked downstairs and I would have thought Britteny Spears was in the hotel. And they were all rushing toward him. The hotel had those rotating, spinning doors and they did not stop. People LITERALLY were running in to see him. Floyd was talking on the phone. He saw everyone rushing toward him and said What the hell?! We had no idea it was going to be like that for starters. It was all kind of a mish/mess. I know everyone was trying to do what they thought was best for Floyd. The Spanish lawyers wanted him to read the statement but it was in Spanish and he had a translated version. But as they were going over it they are reading it to him in Spanish and he's trying to fix the English. They were saying Why are you touching it? Why are you changing things? That's where the Produced by my own organism translation came from. We still had no idea what was going on.

But it was beginning to snowball on you by then.

Yes, it was, and that's what people have a hard time understanding. We never expected anything like this to happen in the first place and we couldn't understand why it was happening. We were reaching for everything we could possibly think of as an excuse, a reason it could have happened.

And the newspapers began leaving out a lot of what was being said and only reported that a new excuse was being used. In reality Floyd was saying I don't know what it is, but it could have been this, or this, or this. Instead of describing Floyd's comments as his "latest excuse" it would have been more accurate to say that Floyd was trying to look for reasons this happened since he didn't dope.

We heard Excuse du jour. A few days later we went on another media blitz and really if you look at what was reported, the media would just pick and choose what he said. They didn't actually report what Floyd had said. One day a reporter asked him why he didn't know anything about this test. Floyd answered Why would I know anything about this test? I've never had a positive. I would never expect a positive. So why would I know ANYTHING about this test? He got ripped for that, too.

When did you finally get back home?

We went to New York to do some media there, but Floyd knows himself and regardless of what else was going on, he'd just raced for three weeks and was extremely tired. Under normal circumstances you don't have to deal with this shit after you finish racing and you can do whatever you need to do to get yourself back in functioning order. But he had to deal with all of this. He ended up putting his foot down and saying he was going home. He knew what things he needed to say but he was so tired he was worried he would say something wrong and people would rip him. He just needed to go home for a few days and do nothing, just sleep. So that's what we did. We came home on Tuesday, so it was a week and a half after the Tour.

Once you got home I suppose you had to tell Ryan what had happened?

Actually I kept it a secret as long as I could just because I didn't know what to say!

Were you afraid kids would say something?

Well, I was worried, but she's in fourth grade, so there's no reason for fourth graders to know this crap. We were starting school the following week so I had to tell her before school started. She actually found out by accident. I was talking on the phone a little too freely and she heard that Floyd had been fired. She said, What? Why has Dad been fired? I told her Dad and I would tell her later but she said she wanted to know right then.

So it ended up being less of a production than if I had planned it. At that point I thought that was the hardest thing I'd ever tell her. Little did I know it would get harder. But I just told her Some people don't think Daddy won the race the right way and we're going to fight it and hopefully Daddy will win. She said Nobody tells my Dad no when it comes to a bike. I didn't include drugs, but now we're a little bit freer and we joke around. We have to make light of it and we call him a doper. I don't think she really gets it.

Did she ever ask you if it was true?

Nope.

She's like you when you appeared on TV and Matt Lauer asked if you'd asked Floyd if he did it, and you looked incredulous and said you didn't need to ask him, you knew he hadn't done it.

She never asked. It wasn't an option; Dad didn't do anything.

When she started back to school were there any problems? Is she in a public school?

Yeah, she is. We talked to the school and I met with her teacher. Her teacher is a cycling fan and he knew what he was getting this year. He just told me not to worry about it, that school would be her safe haven. I told her if anyone said anything to her that was mean she should go straight to the teacher to tell him. Her girlfriend asked her mom if it would be alright if she ended up in the principal's office! She didn't even say If I hit somebody or something. She just said If I end up in there! Those are very good friends to have at nine years old!

By the time you got home were the press still here?

No, we were between A & B by then. Everyone was supportive, they put a big banner on the gates out front and everyone congratulated him. That's just the way it was. We laid low, didn't leave the house and just waited for the B sample but we knew what it was going to be. I guess there were some undercover cops here and there were a few problems with reporters hopping the fences. We were informed like the rest of the world was, at two in the morning.

I stayed up but Floyd had gone to bed, and I told him I'd wake him up. Michael (Henson) was on conference call with me and refreshing his browser until the story broke. That's how we found out. I went upstairs and Floyd was stirring a little bit. I said Don't wake up; it's positive. Go back to sleep. We had cops at the gates most of the day. Some guy did get in and came right up to the house and knocked on the door, asking if Floyd was here. I said No, he's not talking to the press. It was very, very crazy. After that we began the crusade that we're on now, I guess.

Are there days now when you don't have to deal with it?

No, no, it's everyday. Maybe not me so much, but everyday the group of guys we have around us are on the phone constantly. Our team we have set up to help us. It's a constant thing. It's always on our minds; it doesn't go away.

How do you handle the pressure personally? Are you drinking a lot at night? (We both laugh.)

Actually, I hardly ever drink, but I drank Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Floyd said to me Why are you drinking so much? I told him he was driving me to drink! He said he was worried.

The pressure has to be incredible.

It's just been one thing after another. We haven't had any down time. I mean the hip surgery is a good thing that happened, but still it's one more thing. Not that I mind doting over my husband, but ya know, it gets old!

Was there ever a moment when Floyd felt the need to say to you I didn't do it?

No, no. I think he knew that I knew that everything was fine. It didn't need to be said. We try to talk about it as little as possible, but it still consumes every conversation that we have.

How do you keep from being bitter? Or are you bitter?

I am bitter. Very bitter. For starters there has never been an athlete in the history of sport that has been gypped, screwed the way that Floyd has. He has gotten nothing out of his hard work. Nothing. He should be going to the ESPY awards and this and that and the other. We were going to have our big party and Kid Rock was going to come and it was just going to be fun. We got nothing. Not one thing to be excited about. So I do get bitter.

It must be hard to remember that you won.

It is. I have been robbed of that, and that is disgusting to me. Because I think the only person who got to feel it was Ryan. She has youth and no real idea what happened. It's not as big a deal to her as it actually is. I have been robbed of that feeling forever. Even when this ends, yeah we'll be happy and have our party. But it won't be the same. It won't be for the Tour de France. We'll say it's for the victory that everything is behind us then.

We have been robbed forever of that feeling of him accomplishing his dream. And no matter what happens, even when we do win all of this crap, he will always have an asterisk by his name, no matter what. He will never make the money he should have made. He'll never have the sponsorship he should have gotten. It will never be the way it should have been. It's not acceptable to me.

How about the way the team responded to Floyd? I was a little surprised by comments that Andy made, as I know he has been like a father-figure to Floyd in the past. Yet he seemed to place a lot of Phonak's problems square on Floyd's back. I didn't think that was right.

I think they did it because they had to. Floyd has been in contact with Andy since this happened. Andy is having a really hard time with this as well. It's partially his dream that is being bashed too. They had to cut their ties, otherwise the guys couldn't keep racing. I wish it could have been worded differently but I want to believe that they did it because they had to. The guys needed to keep racing for a few more months, getting money, trying to get results.

Everyone is screwed in this. The guys, the riders, the staff. Nobody gets the prize money until this is over. Because if we lose and he's stripped of it then the money would have to be returned. I don't think there are any hard feelings (from the teammates) because no body understands how this happened, and it wasn't anything that Floyd did that caused this. So I don't think anybody is mad at him or doesn't want to speak to him. We're in contact with some of them.

There is going to be a big gap of time now before any action is taken on the case. How do you see this time playing out for your family? How will you make it kind of normal for yourselves?

I don't think it will be normal for awhile. Floyd's days are consumed by this, all of his conversations are about this, he doesn't leave the house too much. It's hard. Everyone has been nothing but supportive and telling him good job that he won. But he doesn't want to hear congratulations because the race isn't over yet. It makes him happy to know he has supporters out there but it doesn't make him happy to hear those words. It makes him sad. It makes him sad. I wish we could watch Stage 17, but we can't watch it. It would piss me off to watch him do that well and not have any of it mean anything.

So if it turns out in the long run that cycling is not going to be part of your lives, how will you deal with that?

He always talked about it before this. He didn't want to be 35 and still racing. He used to joke about it, saying One Tour, that's all I need, one Tour. He said he thought about it while on the podium, thought about making the announcement that he was retiring right there. But then he'd decided No, I'm going to have the hip replaced and come back and win it again, so two Tour wins and that will be it. But I always pictured him somewhere in the cycling world. I can't not picture him there. He's so good at it. But he's so smart, he can do whatever he wants.

Ryan knows all about the surgery and what her dad is going through now?

Yeah, she knows all about it. She's pretty well adjusted. She's proud of the fact that her dad is Floyd Landis. We made her a dress that said "My Dad Just Won the Tour de France" and she wore it home on the plane after the Tour. She wants to wear it to school all the time but I won't let her right now, just to keep it on the safe side. I've heard some kids saying Your dad is Floyd Landis; he's famous! And she gets a little giddy about it. To her, her dad is Floyd Landis, Tour de France winner. Period.

My last question is what lessons have you taken to heart through all of this? What things have you learned about yourself, or maybe about your relationship with Floyd?

I think I've learned that I'm stronger than I thought I was and that I can handle more than I thought. As far as our relationship, well, I know Iím not going anywhere, I'm standing by him.

As for a lesson learned? Hmmmm, that life sucks?! (We both laugh.) Well, without all of this other crap Floyd just worked so hard for this. I know everyone says they work hard for their dream but I don't think people actually understand how much he worked for this. This was his life, this was his goal, this was his dream. Ryan and I came second to his bike. This was his everything. Really I don't know if he could be happy if he had never won it.

To him and to me he'll always be, no matter what happens, the Tour de France winner. Nobody can ever take that away from him.


The Daily Peloton sends out a huge thank you to Amber for sharing her story with the DP readers. We have enjoyed this up-close glimpse into her life and the experience she has gone through. We wish the Landis family the best of luck in the coming months as they fight to clear Floyd's name.

Photos by Ben Ross, copyright www.benrossphotography

 
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Amber Landis: The Interview, Part One
Amber Landis: The Interview, Part Two

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