There’s Lance Armstrong, an icon in a sport laced with doping. Dope has been as integral a part of pro cycling as a football is to football. Armstrong wins the Tour de France seven times in a row. It is impossible to believe he wasn’t doping. But, despite what seems to be perpetual investigations in France and the U.S., despite allegations of past teammates, past gofers, and past friends, no one has ever made a single doping charge stick to the seven-time champ. Indeed, just two months ago the U.S. attorney in L.A. closed a two-year investigation into Armstrong, this one dealing with doping during his tenure on the U.S. Postal Service team (1998–2004).
If you’re Floyd Landis, this has got to be bitter, bitter news. The bastard cheat got away with it again. Armstrong, who has an estimated net worth of $125 million, gets to keep his money, trophies, endorsement deals, business interests, and fancy friends. Meantime, Floyd eats bed bugs to survive.
And to make things incredibly, impossibly worse, on the heels of Armstrong’s latest victory comes news that Floyd is the target of a federal investigation. Indeed, ESPN reports that a San Diego grand jury has been hearing witnesses at the U.S. District Court on Front Street for the past year.
The feds are looking into mail- and wire-fraud charges against Landis in regards to his legal defense fund. Said fund was set up after he was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title. Authorities said he tested positive for synthetic testosterone.
The guy can’t catch a break. Back in 2010, Landis wore a wire and carried a small video camera for former IRS, current FDA, super steroid investigator Jeff Novitzky, into the home of Michael Ball. Ball owned a bad-boy cycling team, Rock Racing, and wanted to put Landis on his roster. In return, Landis wears a wire into his apartment.
While wearing a wire for Novitzky, Landis was also working with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and who knows how many others in Federal Police World, ratting out past teammates and employers. And now Federal Police World turns on him, the last honest man left in professional cycling, a simple soldier trying to clean up his sport.
To recap, Landis won the 2006 Tour de France and was busted for doping. Now comes the Floyd Fairness Fund. ESPN.com reports he raised more than $1 million and that $300,000 to $400,000 came from small individual donations and merchandise sales.
Go over to YouTube and run a search on “Floyd Fairness Fund.” The first hit is a March 30, 2007, video of Floyd pitching his fund. The video runs 7:22 but is blacked out after the first 3:30. Now run a Google video search on “Floyd Fairness Fund.” That YouTube video turns up all over the web but always with the last 3:30 deleted. In fact, I couldn’t find the missing 3:30 anywhere on the internet. Lucky for us, I wrote about that specific video before it was blacked out:
“The part of the video that interests me are shots of him at what looks to be a restaurant. He’s standing in a makeshift holding area talking to two women. You hear him being introduced, ‘All of you, welcome the 2006 Tour de France champion, Floyd Landis!’ He straightens his shoulders and walks toward bright lights and sustained applause. Landis has his, ‘I’m innocent’ spiel memorized, he has his foundation executive director there, he has his foundation chairman there, he’s posing for pictures, he’s signing autographs, he’s working the room. That’s when it hits you. This is personal, he’s lying to people one person at a time.”
You’ve got to wonder how many bike shops, shopping malls, county fairs, restaurants, neighborhood pubs, book signings, festivals, and fairs it took to raise $300,000 in small donations from people who believed in him. How many, 200? More than 200? He lied at every one of those appearances. How many media interviews did he give, 100...200? He lied during every interview.
There are two stories about Landis that remain vivid to me. One is allowing his mother to defend him in public. The second is holding a benefit for himself at the Ephrata (Pennsylvania) Performing Arts Center. This is his hometown; Landis was born 5½ miles from the arts center. He drew 300 people that day. His people.
He didn’t have to go to the place where he was born, to the place where he was raised, to the place where his mother, father, brother, and sisters still live, and then lie to family, friends, and neighbors. And then ask for their money.
And still, Lance Armstrong remains rich, respected, and free.