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Floyd Landis Talks with the Daily Peloton
 
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 1/1/2007
Floyd Landis Talks with the Daily Peloton
 

A new year has dawned but the old problem of proving his innocence from a doping charge surrounding his win at the 2006 Tour de France still hangs over the head of Floyd Landis. We've been fortunate to have Floyd visit the DP Forums frequently in the past, and this interview was a chance to ask him why he showed up in the first place and how he sees his case shaping up. It was indeed my extreme pleasure to interview the Tour Champion, and I know I am joined by many DP regulars in wishing him well as he fights to clear his name and secure his place in the cycling history books.


Cathy Mehl: Let's talk first about your presence in the forum. I am assuming that you came to the Daily Peloton Forums for a purpose when you first joined several months ago. Can you tell me what you saw in the reader postings that made you think there was quality thinking going on?

Floyd Landis: Iíd read the forums and found myself getting frustrated by the discussions at times. There were a lot of smart and interested people arguing without all the facts, so I figured that Iíd say a few things and see if I could give the people some information that you wouldnít know unless you went through what Iím going through.

Cathy: You created quite a firestorm when you first began appearing. I know you were healing from surgery and had a lot of time on your hands. You seemed to be there a lot! What did you hope to accomplish by being in the forum? Do you feel these goals were met? Will any of the science presented at DPF be used in your case?

Floyd: Well, after the hip surgery I got a laptop and spent a lot of time on the couch. Amber will only put up with me for so long, so I figured that Iíd get what was in my head when reading the forum out into the debate. I wanted people to hear my side of the story and not judge me based on rumors or on what they read in the press. Thereís a lot that people donít know about how the system works and about how unfair it can be to athletes. I think I was able to get some of that across in the forums. When we made the documents public, we wanted people to educate themselves in the test and see what they could add to the case, good or bad. I donít know if any of the science used will be used in the case, but I do know that guys like Duckstrap and Thomas Fine made some really good arguments that support what (Dr.) Arnie (Baker) has been saying in public. Chris T. always kept things interesting, too. It was good to see smart people thinking about the documents we made public. Thatís one of the reasons why we did it in the first place and called it the Wiki Defense.

All of this took place during a period where you were on the trainer but not back on the bike. Now you are out on the road again and we donít hear from you so much. Do you feel your needs from the forum have been met or did something happen that made you not want to post much anymore? By the way I do have to say your comments about preferring to ask Satan for advise before seeking advise from Greg Lemond were some of the funniest things Iíve ever read!

Thanks, I guess! Greg was making damaging comments in the press without looking at the facts of my case, so far as I know, and that didnít sit well with me.

Yeah, Iím out riding a couple of hours a day and am busy with all of the case stuff otherwise, so I donít have as much time to sit on the laptop and chat in the forum. I also feel that my presence in the forum started to become a bad thing for the debate. Maybe itís an impossible thing to ask, but I just wanted to be a part of the debate and make people think before they wrote something down. I didnít want the whole thing to become about me being there rather than about the case. When things started getting a little ugly in the forum, I wanted to remove myself so that people would stop attacking one another and get back to discussing the case.

If I personally were reading criticisms of myself or people bagging on my character I would probably lose it, but youíve had to deal with that a lot since July. How do you deal with the ones that state you are a cheater? What resources do you draw upon to keep yourself on an even keel instead of going off on a rant defending yourself? Do you ever feel like shouting from the rooftops, ďLook at me! Iím not a cheater, and have never been one!Ē

Sometimes I do go off on rants, isnít that what the Lemond vs. Satan comment was! Look, I know Iím innocent and I won the Tour de France clean. I know it, Amber and Ryan know it, my friends know it and the people who are defending me know it. People think and say a lot of things and donít think about what theyíre saying or why theyíre saying it. And with how everything was reported in the press in July and August, I donít blame people for thinking that Iím guilty. It doesnít bother me as much anymore. What does bother me is how Iím being treated by USADA, WADA and the UCI. There is nothing fair about how they are treating me. They have called me guilty before I really even knew what it was I had been accused of! Everyone else just bases their opinions off of what guys like Pound and McQuaid say in the press. Thatís just bullshit and the whole system needs to change. If thereís anything that makes me want to climb up to the roof and shout, itís how the system has dealt with this.

Iím sure this is a position you never felt you would be in and have been totally unprepared to deal with doping allegations. Yet you seem to have educated yourself thoroughly now and are quite handy with the science of your case. If you could remove the personal side of the case, have you surprised yourself at what youíve been able to grasp and figure out and how deep into the science youíve gone? Youíve said to me in the past, ďIím not that smartĒ but I think we are seeing that indeed you are!

Apparently there are a lot of people out there who donít think Iím smart because theyíre basically accusing me of being stupid. Iím a bike racer and thatís all I ever wanted to do. Iíve been forced into this life that I never asked for and now have to spend a lot of time with lawyers, scientists and PR people whose job it is to know the ins and outs of the case. I also have to speak publicly about these unsubstantiated charges. If Iím going to do that, and if Iím going to know how to fight these allegations, I need to educate myself in the science. I know more about testosterone than I ever wanted to, but I still donít know half as much as the experts working on my case.

The recent LA Times article on the doping agencies and their one-track method of protecting their image seems very disheartening to your case, or anyone elseís, since the truth is not their main objective. Can you comment on the article? Did you know it was being written? What was your response to the article? Also a recent piece on Dick Pound had some ridiculous quotes, stating you were known as "Roid Floyd" in the peloton. How do you deal?

The system is unfair. Pound is a loose cannon and likes seeing his name in the press. How he became judge, jury and executioner Iím not sure, but he is the perfect example of how the system makes it almost impossible for an athlete to get a fair hearing. In America, rapists and murderers have more rights than athletes accused of doping. If Pereiro and Sastre had mysteriously disappeared after Stage 17 and I was accused of knocking them off in their sleep, Iíd have more rights in an American court than I do now in this arbitration process. As it stands, I donít see myself getting a fair hearing. "Roid Floyd." Glad that Pound has taken up poetry as a hobby.

What elements of your case have upset you the most? Whether this be in the science or the public perception.

How Iíve been treated, or mistreated, by the system is most upsetting to me. Itís been hard to be tried in the court of public opinion without even having the information to defend myself. That and the fact that theyíre building their case against me on a foundation of flawed science and misconduct at the LNDD. How can you ruin someoneís life on a test that has as many mistakes as this one! Itís unbelievable to me and that makes me angry.

Many times when I have seen you on mainstream TV for interviews, the agenda of the journalist comes shining through much more than what you are saying, especially with TV pieces where they cut and edit much of what you say. Has all of this been eye-opening to you about the media? Do you feel your message is getting out?

I feel that the message is getting out more now than it was and weíre working on keeping it out there, but Iíve learned a lot about TV. The "Real Sports" (show)was the perfect example. They could have done so much more with that piece and it was just bad TV. And I was raised a Mennonite, so I can only imagine what people who were raised watching TV thought!

You have talked about USADA delaying so long or fighting this so long with you that you will eventually be out of money to continue the fight. The longer they can keep you from riding the reality of that statement becomes more and more clear. First, have any dates been set in Pepperdine yet? Obviously you arenít earning a salary from a team right now, but is there any interest in you from some of your former sponsors? Or have they had to back off from you? What other avenues of earning power are you able to pursue right now? I know your camp is coming up soon (http://www.floydlandis.com/camp/).

We donít have a date yet and we might not have one for a while. Some of the sponsors like CycleOps and Speedplay have stuck by my side and thatís been good for morale, at the very least.

What about a book deal on your life? Do you have a writer yet?

We have a new writer for the book. Itís Loren Mooney and I think that sheíll do a great job with it.

Can you comment on the Floyd Fairness Fund? When will this be up and running? Was it hard for you to ask for money? I presume this is something that goes against your natural character or upbringing.

The Floyd Fairness Fund is being set up by Michael (Henson) and Brian Rafferty and itís supposed to be up and running (around) January 3rd. I think theyíve been working on the website and other background stuff for a few weeks. Youíll have to ask them about the details, but there should be an official announcement soon. The asking for money doesnít make me feel that comfortable and it does go against my character, but I need help to fight this and to get a fair hearing. Iím innocent and for the world to know that, this needs to be done right. Itís not just about me, either, itís about fairness for other athletes who find themselves in similar positions to mine and about changing the system. The FFF is bigger than me and I hope that it will help others and change the way things are run.

How about your relationship with your family in Pennsylvaniaóhas that changed at all, for better or worse?

My family is my family and that has never changed. It will never change. I love them and they love me.

I ask this next question because I personally was raised in a very devout "fire and brimstone" Southern Baptist family and while I donít subscribe to those teachings now, the guilt part of those teachings pops up in my head sometimes. I would suspect that there are those in the Mennonite faith near where you grew up that might say your troubles are caused from you leaving the faith. Have you entertained any of these thoughts yourself? Why or why not?

No. I really havenít thought about that. Growing up a Mennonite still shapes who I am today. I was raised, as a Mennonite, to value and respect and I grew up with the belief that enough hard work and determination could accomplish anything. Over and above these values I was taught and still live my life respecting other peoples dignity and rights, and giving people the same respect which I expect for myself. I donít think that what Iím going through has anything to do with my leaving the community. I still respect how they live their lives and I know that the community is proud of what Iíve done and are supporting me now.

Walk us through your typical day now and share with us how you stay motivated to fight on. Do you realistically think youíll be competing in 2007? If not, how do you see your year playing out? Does sitting here on the brink of a new year give you any feeling of renewed strength or resolve to fight?

I spend a good part of my day riding my bike and the rest of my time is mostly spent in meetings or on conference calls with the defense team. Iíd rather ride all day, but thatís not the reality right now. Regardless, itís good to be back on the bike for at least a few hours a day. It makes the other stuff more manageable. Considering how long this is going on, I donít know if Iíll be able to race in 2007. Iíd love nothing more than to be in London in July rolling down the start ramp with number 1 on my back. I just donít know how long this is going to take. Regardless, itís my goal and dream to get back and win the Tour de France again. Donít mistake that! Iíve always had strength and resolve to fight, so that isnít changing with the New Year. Iím not big on ceremony. Iíd just like to get on with it.

Share with us what it has meant to have the support of friends and family through this.

It means everything to me. You learn a lot about people when you go through something like this and Iím lucky to have such a supportive group of family and friends.

Can you make some comments on the David Witt Memorial Ride which you participated in a few weeks ago, plus reaction from fans that appeared at the event? I thought this was a very nice gathering. It was a very casual, humorous day.

It was great. I was happy to see the San Diego cycling community come out and celebrate David's life while also helping the families of the firefighters. He would have been happy. I donít know how soon Iíll be getting on a track again, though! (Dave) Zabriskie almost put me into the wall. He needed to with the "Uni-Biker" beard creating all of that drag! And speaking of drag, what was with Rollís pink helmet?

Iíve interviewed you a few times now, and have always been delighted with your straight forward answers and your sense of humor. I hope you are able to hold on to that beyond all of this. For what itís worth, you still have many fans still on your side, and many of us will always hold your epic Stage 17 ride as a historic cycling moment.

I watched the ride into Paris on my Tivo a couple of weeks ago as I prepared for this interview just to recapture the joy of that dayóand it was a joyous victory! I know everything that has come after has changed all of that for you, but I hope there is some place in your head or heart that you are able to hold on to some of it, because it really was special and spectacular. It meant a lot to many of us cycling fans, and you are a most deserving Tour de France winner. Thank you for that.

Thanks, Cathy. I appreciate that.


Most images provided by Celia Cole and Ben Ross.

 
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