Cycling’s Dirty Tricks: The Latest Chapter
By Evan Weiner
May 23, 2010
(New York, N. Y.) -- When it comes to dirty tricks, cyclist Floyd Landis apparently can teach the masters a few lessons if the whispers coming out of Los Angeles are true. Allegedly Landis told the Anchutz Entertainment Group (AEG) that if he was not invited to this year's Tour of California bike race, somewhere around day three or four, he would start naming names and tell the world who was doping.
AEG didn't take kindly to Landis' threat and told the cyclist hit the road.
Landis apparently kept his word after AEG did not invite him to race this year and a few days into the race he accused fellow cyclist Lance Armstrong
of not only joining Landis in using performance enhancing drugs but added that Armstrong showed other cyclists how to beat the system (drug testing) and allegedly Armstrong paid the former president of the International Cycling Union to keep a failed test quiet.
Armstrong has denied all of the accusations.
AEG knew Landis was going to go public and decided to roll the dice to see if he would actually go ahead with his threat.
In a sense Landis, because he was not invited by AEG to this year's event, has become the Jose Canseco of cycling. The former Major League Baseball player Canseco went public and named names and more often than not, Canseco was right. Landis doesn't have a book to sell at the moment but seems to be singing to anyone who is listening. Landis has not just set his sights on Armstrong. There is a list of people he is accusing of doping.
Some have already come out against Landis’ charge.
Landis has admitted that he was blood doping years before he won the 2006 Tour de France. He was stripped of his title after the results of a test showed that he had used synthetic testosterone.
Landis was banned from cycling for two years between January 30, 2007 and January 30, 2009 because he was a cheater. He has served his time and wants back in.
There is a difference between being a cheater and being user of an illegal substance. Illegal substances can put you in prison for a while. The sports industry has not as of yet acknowledged the difference. Just ask International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge about what he thinks of athletes using banned substances. Rogge tried to explain to Italian authorities before the 2006 Turin Winter Games that the IOC should police the Olympic Village not Italian authorities for illegal substances such as performance enhancing drugs because using the drugs was cheating not illegal.
An Olympian, track and field gold medal winner Marion Jones, was sentenced to six months in prison in January 2008 for lying to federal investigators about the BALCO steroid ring and for lying about a check-fraud scheme involving her ex-boyfriend, the Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery.
Jones did not go to jail for using steroids. It seems athletes have Teflon when it comes to breaking the law using drugs.
Maybe it is because the world puts athletes on a podium and there is more shame in cheating than breaking the law.
In the BALCO case, Victor Conte, Greg Anderson (Barry Bonds trainer) and Patrick Arnold were sent to prison. The athletes who testified in the case with the exception of two athletes who went to jail Jones, Tim Montgomery and one coach Steven Riddick (all on non-drug, money laundering charges even though Jones, Montgomery and Thomas all admitted to using PEDs) were given a scarlet letter and received scorn from baseball writers and some fans but pretty much went unscathed. That list included Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire among others. A track and field coach, Trevor Graham, was barred for life from participating in training US Olympians because of the number of athletes who received PEDs from him including Marion Jones. He faced criminal charges for lying to criminal investigators and received house arrest.
It seems not too many people in the sports industry or even government agencies are too concerned about the illegality issue. Instead there is a tendency to give out 50 day suspensions in Major League and Minor League Baseball, a four week ban in the NFL, and Olympic suspensions ranging from two to four to eight years for athletes who are caught using PEDs.
Landis got a two-year suspension.
On April 5, 2008 Olympics cyclist Tammy Thomas was found guilty by a jury on three perjury counts and one count of obstruction of justice as a byproduct of the BALCO investigation. Thomas had been banned from cycling but interestingly enough none of the charges against her including using banned substances.
Landis used PEDs and was convicted of cheating. Landis and other athletes pay a price in shame and humiliation and apparently have no problems outing others out. The list includes baseball's Rafael Palmiero who blamed his Baltimore Orioles teammate Miguel Tejada for failing a drug test. Palmiero contended that Tejada gave him what he thought was a B-12 shot.
Tejada is an interesting study as well.
He was charged by Congress for lying to that august group about the usage of PEDs in Major League Baseball. But the Congressional investigators were not interested in whether Tejada used banned substances. Instead, the Washington lawmakers thought Tejada lied about talking to a teammate about steroids and human growth hormones. On February 11, 2009, Tejada pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and received one year probation. A Dominican Republic national, Tejada, was also allowed to continue his baseball career and was given a visa to work in the United States. Tejada could have been deported from the United States.
Landis may have found out something that sports insiders have known for years. Corporations are not going to stop buying tickets for sports events in the United States because of doping allegations or end their marketing partnerships, TV networks (and their Internet arms) are not going to stop showing sports events, the US government is not lifting Baseball's Antitrust exemption or revoking the 1961 Sports Broadcast Act or undoing the 1966 American Football League-National Football League merger nor undoing the major loophole in the 1986 Tax Act which spurred stadium and arena construction nationally and local governments are not stopping the funding for stadiums and arenas for teams.
Just a few people care, some sportswriters, politicians who talk a good game about drugs and the impact on kids who follow sports and glom onto athletes as heroes and some sports talk radio callers and hosts. The Tour of California is going on without Landis even with the knowledge that Landis planned to use the race as his platform to out people who he contended were doping.
Sports is a lot like the Whac-A-Mole game, hit one mole and five more come up. The next one is already on the lathe, Dr. Anthony Galea, the former team doctor of the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts who had an elixir for treating injured athletes. Dr. Galea’s clients included Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Reyes, the Olympic swimmer Dana Torres and others. Landis will be forgotten soon enough and replaced by Dr. Galea as the next act opens.
Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator, and lecturer on the "Politics of Sports Business" and can be reached for speaking engagements at email@example.com