06 October 2018

A Cheater Or A Helper?

When I was writing for a local newspaper, I talked to police officers as well as their commanders.  One of the brass I saw regularly was, as it turned out, very well-read.  He told me his favorite novel was Les Miserables.

"It poses a question that we, in law enforcement, always deal with."  That question, he said, is this:  "Is redemption possible?"

Was Jean Valjean the thief and escaped convict Inspector Javert pursues from one end of France to another?  Or was he the industrious benefactor and kindly benefactor of Montreuil-sur-Mer who had to be coaxed into accepting its mayoralty but still declined the king's offer to make him a chevalier in the Legion d'honneur

There's a parallel, I think, in Floyd Landis' story.  He was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France victory after failing drug tests. Later, he was involved in a federal whistle-blower lawsuit against Lance Armstrong.  It was settled this past spring, and he is scheduled to receive about $1 million.

So, is he going to ride off into the sunset?  Or is he going to fund his business? (More about that later.)

No, he plans to fund his Floyd's of Leadville Pro Cycling Team with one of his former teammates, Gord Fraser.  He is seeking a UCI Pro Continental license for the team, which will be based in Canada.

His motivation, he explains, is that he likes the sport.  Referring to what he and his fellow riders did, he explains that it is "part of the reason" the bicycle racing "is at a low point now."  Though he "can't fix what happened in the past", he says, he wants "to help."

"I understand I hurt the cycling community," he admits.

He believes that starting a team is the thing to do because "teams are going away."  He was referring, no doubt, to the recent dissolution of two longtime US teams, Jelly Belly-Maxxis and UnitedHealthcare. 

Floyd's of Leadville is, as you've probably guessed, his business, based in the Colorado town where he lives. It offers soft gels, tinctures and creams for pain relief.  The common ingredient in all of them is...cannabis.

As you probably know by now, Colorado was one of the first US states to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes.  But, in most other states--and in the eyes of the Federal government-- it's still not legal for medical or recreational purposes. 

The irony of being a pot purveyor (well, all right, it's not quite as simple as that) doesn't seem to be lost on Landis.  His website points out that his business was borne of a "crossroads" when he realized he could no longer depend on opiods to relieve his pain.

So...Is Floyd the guy who tried to claim that the unusually high levels of testosterone found in his blood were "natural"?  Or the guy who helped to bring down a team and a generation of riders?  Or the man who, apparently, is trying to rebuild a sport--to be a benefactor, if you will?

And should we see him as someone who used some substances to gain an unfair advantage--or one who will use others to help young riders win, and more important, ride, in ways he never did?


  1. First, I recently discovered your blog, and just would like to throw out a few words of how much I enjoy reading your posts. I'm not one to judge the true motivations the drive others; as best I can, being human (and thus flawed) try to give people the benefit of belief, till they prove me wrong otherwise. I would say, I would like to be able to return to a time where I can be an "openly known bicycle race fan". It seems that when I meet non-cycling people for the first time, and bicycle racing creeps into our conversation, doping is almost always the "elephant in the conversation". I don't know about others, but as a bicyclist, I feel I have to defend 1) the justification of government moneys spent on bicycle paths, 2) bicyclists rights to use public roads, and 3) bicycle racing as a legitimate (doping free) sport. Each of those issues seems like a long steep climb. Anyways, I will try to approach Floyd's actions with an open mind, and I do hope for the best, for Floyd and the bicycle racing circles.

  2. Virgil--I, too, have encountered the "elephant" when I get into conversations with non-cycling fans. To people who don't ride, bike paths are one-in-the-same with doping racers. We need, as you say, to return to something better. Hopefully, Floyd will be part of that.