The news broke today that Floyd Landis admitted to using performance enhancing substances throughout his professional cycling career. Landis, for a short time considered the winner of the 2006 Tour de France, has spent the last four years denying doping allegations and has now decided to make this confession. I won’t recount all the details of that confession here but you can read about it at:
Wall Street Journal
Landis, who grew up in a Mennonite home, seemed not to learn much about character. Or maybe he just didn’t apply what he learned. I guess I’m glad he has come clean. But a part of me thinks that “come clean” is not an accurate description of what Landis has done.
For those unfamiliar with the twisted tale I will let you in on some of the history that makes me wary of Landis’ motives in this latest move. Landis “won” the Tour in 2006 in what, at the time, seemed like an incredible ride during one of the mountain stages. It was, in the moment, one of the most exciting stages in Tour history. Bob Roll, Versus cycling analyst, was going crazy as Landis rode away from his competitors and regained his lead in the Tour for good, claiming the desired Yellow Jersey.
Not long after doping officials charged Landis with using synthetic testosterone and after a lengthy court battle, Landis was stripped of his Yellow Jersey and banned from the sport for two years. The court battle was lengthy because Landis denied the accusations. Not only did he deny the accusations, he accused the lab techs of faulty work, the doping agency of incompetency and even wrote a book titled “Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France,” complete with a picture of Landis on the front looking defiant and self-righteous.
In the midst of all that there is the sad tale of how Landis tried to destroy Greg Lemond because Lemond implored Landis to come clean and admit to doping. I wrote about that on my blog when it happened. I found Landis’ actions despicable then, and even more so now that he has admitted that Lemond was right (although I don’t think he said it that way).
During the battle that ensued after the Tour Landis was out trying to raise support and I believe he was asking people to give for his legal defense.
Landis’ confession wasn’t just an admission of what he had done, he got quite a workout with everyone else he threw under the bus. Lance Armstrong, his coaches, a doctor, George Hincapie, and the list goes on. It seems that Landis isn’t content just destroying his own career and reputation, he wanted to take down as many other people as possible with him. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t other guilty parties, there probably are, but I think Floyd should have started with really cleaning up his own house first and then maybe he might have some credibility with these other issues.
So Floyd, how about you start by apologizing to and seeking forgiveness from (1) all the people who do the doping tests that you worked so hard to try and destroy their credibility, (2) the people who supported you as you tried to defend your “honor” and innocence, (3) the publisher that published a book of what now is obviously a pack of lie, (4) all the good people who believed in you and stood up for you while you looked them in the eye and lied to them, (5) all the fans cycling who have seen the sport they love being destroyed by corrupt athletes like you, and (6) Greg Lemond for what you sought to do to him.
There’s a start for you. Work on that and then come back and tell us about who else has problems. Or better yet, make things right yourself and then go and talk to those individuals in private and see if they might make their own confession if it is necessary.
You see, Floyd, it is hard to believe you now because you lied to us so much in the past. This whole thing seems more like revenge than repentance. Your comeback to the sport hasn’t worked out so well. How do I know you aren’t just bitter as you have to sit on the sidelines and know that you will never again rise to the top of the sport? Character matters. And when you undermine your personal trustworthiness and honesty, why should you be believed now?
It’s not that you can’t be forgiven for your past transgressions. You can and had you told the truth in 2006 and admitted that the pressure to win drove you to cheat, it would have been a humbling experience; but you would have also experienced forgiveness and, I suspect, would have been welcomed back to the sport with open arms. And what you are saying now, if it is true, would have carried so much more weight. Too bad you sold your reputation for a chance at a Yellow Jersey. I’m sure you will agree it wasn’t worth it.
If something good comes from the Landis story, maybe it will be that his saga will remind us that character matters. Maybe he will be an example of the folly of selling out your integrity. Fame, fortune, and the applause of others must never be treasured more than personal character and integrity.