Floyd Landis has claimed that he delayed confessing to doping for nearly four years because he believed that once he had owned up to his personal past misdemeanours, he would have little credibility when it came to making allegations against others regarding widespread doping in cycling.
Landis, stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title after he tested positive for excessive levels of testosterone during the race, was speaking in a press conference coinciding with the New Pathways In Pro Cycling conference hosted by Deakin University in Geelong, where the UCI Road World Championships are taking place this week.
The former US Postal Service rider finally confessed to his history of doping in May this year following years of trying to clear his name as he denied any misdoing, raising funds from fans to help meet his legal fees.
His admission of using performance enhancing drugs was accompanied by wide-ranging accusations that such practices were actively encouraged within the US Postal Service team, including specific allegations made against team leader and seven times Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong.
Landis’s fears that his credibility would suffer reflect the principal tack taken in response to his accusations by the legal team assembled by Armstrong to respond to the ongoing investigation into doping within US cycling led by special agent Jeff Novitzky of the Food & Drug Administration.
Certainly, the Armstrong camp’s rebuttal of Landis’s allegations consistently point out that since he has by his own admission lied under oath in the past, he cannot be seen to be telling the truth now, even going so far as to brand him a “serial liar.”
According to Landis, however, cycling will continue to be plagued by drugs cheats until more people come forward to help expose the problem.
"Until I can sit here, and a lot of other people can sit down and talk about how it came to be that way, it's going to be hard to find a solution," Landis told the conference, according to an Associated Press report. "If I can be a catalyst for that, so be it. I don't care to take any credit for it because part of why I'm doing what I'm doing is for my own conscience and my own wellbeing.
"As much as it hurts to sit and tell my mom I lied, and to tell other people that I lied, it's better than the alternative," he added.
The 34-year-old acknowledged, however, that he had delayed too long before finally admitting his own drug use, and that his initial denial that he had doped meant it was difficult for him to be believed now.
"I knew that having defended myself in the beginning, and having lied about never having doped, that no matter when I changed the story and no matter when I decided to tell the details of what I'd done, the argument was always going to be the same,” he explained. “It was going to be that I shouldn't be believed now," he added, saying, “It took me longer than it probably should have."
Landis insists, however, that at the time he was racing, doping was rife within the peloton. "There were plenty of good people in cycling who made the same decisions I did," he maintained. "And it was never their intention to cheat anybody. It was never their intention to hurt anybody, it's just that it was so commonplace that you could rationalize it in your mind that you weren't hurting anybody.”
He continued: "I really didn't want to put anyone else through [what he wet through after he was caught]. It was an unpleasant experience to say the least. And even to this day I wish there was a way to tell the truth without getting anyone else involved.
"I can say first hand, leaving me out of it or whatever anyone's opinion is about me, there are good people in cycling that made the same decisions I made and there are people I don't like who made the decisions I made," Landis added.
Landis, of course, isn’t the only cyclist to have broken the peloton’s unwritten rule of silence, or omertà, when it comes to making specific claims of doping, with riders such as Festina’s Christophe Bassons, a non-doper himself, and Domina Vacanze’s Filippo Simeoni, who pointed the finger at Dr Michele Ferrari, who counted Armstrong among his clients, both effectively hounded out of the sport afterwards.
However, one of the central arguments put forward at the two-day conference, which also saw the launch of the research study I Wish I Was 21 Now – Beyond Doping In The Australian Peloton, is that instead of focusing on individual riders, as tends to happen at the moment, investigators should instead seek to tackle the network of team managers, staff and medical practitioners who help encourage and facilitate the use of performance enhancing substances in the first place.
Landis has participated in two panel discussions over the past two days, one focusing on the UCI’s Biological Passport Programme, the other entitled, Where To Now For Professional Cycling?
Fellow panel members on both sessions included the Australian doping expert Dr Michael Ashenden, who sits on the UCI’s Biological Passport panel, and Andy Layhe, co-founder of Bike Pure, the body that campaigns for a clean future for cycling.
We’ll be bringing you full coverage of the issues discussed during those sessions plus other aspects of the conference here on road.cc in the coming days.
As for what the future holds for him, Landis told the conference that he was considering returning to study, perhaps seeking to enrol at Pepperdine Law School in Malibu. It’s an intriguing choice, but Landis certainly has more courtroom experience than most of his co-students would do at this stage.
Although, perhaps unsurprisingly, Landis has not been given accreditation for the world championships, he does plan on watching the races, which start tomorrow with the men’s under-23 and women’s time trials, from the roadside.
Conference organisers are also keen to secure him a ticket for Saturday’s replay of the Australian Rules Football Grand Final – the equivalent of the FA Cup Final – at the Melbourne Cricket Ground between Collingwood and St Kilda, and promise that “he would be a riot for a guest.” We have no doubt of that.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.