On the first day of the Tour de France, the one newspaper all cycling fans want to get their hands on is French sports daily, L’Equipe, but tomorrow it’s a very different publication, The Wall Street Journal, that carries the must-read story, apparently centered around further allegations from Floyd Landis of widespread use of performance enhancing substitutes within the sport of cycling.
Landis, the only man ever to be stripped of the Tour de France’s yellow jersey after “winning” the race, and the last person on earth that Tour organisers ASO would want on the guest list at the party in the Dutch port city tomorrow, hit the headlines in May when he pointed the finger at former team-mate Lance Armstrong, among others, as being involved in the use of EPO and other performance enhancing drugs, an accusation that the seven-times Tour de France winner vehemently denies.
Since then, Landis is understood to have been co-operating with US investigators including Jeff Novitzky of the Food & Frug Administration, who helped unmask Olympic gold medallist Marion Jones as a drugs cheat. The investigation is said to have extended to potential fraud due to the prospect of federal funds, in the shape of sponsorship of Armstrong’s former team by the United States Postal Service, being used to buy drugs.
The Tour de France organisers, not to mention Armstrong, are unlikely to welcome the news, therefore, that in its print edition today, The Wall Street Journal has trailed a feature that will appear in its Weekend edition, out tomorrow, under the headline, “Blood Brothers.”
In a teaser for tomorrow’s article, the newspaper says: “Pro cyclist Floyd Landis saw his career and personal life all but destroyed after a failed drug test cost him his 2006 Tour de France crown. Now, Mr Landis gives The Wall Street Journal an exclusive tour through what he and others say was a culture of systematic doping throughout the sport.”
That teaser, shown in the picture above, is accompanied by a picture of Landis and Armstrong riding together in US Postal Service colours.
This being the internet era, rumours abound on sites such as Twitter as to what the content – and more significantly, the impact – of The Wall Street Journal’s article might be. There is talk of “a bomb” dropping on the sport of professional cycling come the morning. Some say that an injunction has been sought to prevent the article being published at all.
At the same time, it’s rather remarkable that in an age when news can be disseminated immediately online, The Wall Street Journal – coincidentally, ultimately owned by News Corporation and therefore a member of the same corporate family as Team Sky – is sticking with the trusted medium of newsprint to break a story that has the potential to overshadow anything that happens in Rotterdam tomorrow.
It’s a few hours yet until we’ll be able to sit down and digest the full contents of The Wall Street Journal’s article; should some of the rumours circulating be true, however, its repercussions will be felt in the sport for much longer.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.