The media storm began to form late last night, with short briefs appearing online hinting at emails Floyd Landis sent to "cycling officials" that detailed his apparent doping while possibily implicating others. By this morning it was a full-blown hurricane of accusation.
Over the past several weeks, Landis sent emails to USA Cycling, anti-doping officials, sponsors and various media outlets confessing that he used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, HGH and other forms of performance-enhancing drugs dating back to 2002.
While this might not come as a shock to many considering his 2006 Tour de France positive and the subsequent, lengthy trial in which he fought to clear his name, it is the names that Landis cites as complicent in his doping schemes that will surely generate the most buzz around these revelations.
Among those he calls out are:
- Lance Armstrong
- Johan Bruyneel
- Levi Leipheimer
- Dave Zabriskie (the current overall leader of the Tour of California)
- George Hincapie
- Dr. Michele Ferrari
- Andy Rihs (former owner of Landis' Phonak team)
Undoubtedly, the denials have been quick and assertive. Landis so far has offered no hard evidence--photos, receipts, recordings--just his word against theirs. However, that this story first came to light through two non-cycling-related media outlets, the Wall Street Journal and ESPN, underscores the accusatory nature of the confession. American cycling fans are all too familiar with the mainstream media concentrating only on doping allegations in cycling, rather than the sport itself. That Landis chose to talk exclusively to ESPN's Bonnie Ford (so far, anyway), and that the WSJ obtained copies of three emails while Cyclingnews only reviewed one suggests Landis knew his audience. His timing (sending the emails just before the Tour of California), indicates he knew when he'd make the biggest splash.
The immediate impact is that the Amgen Tour of California, a race shaping up to be the most exciting cycling event in the United States in a long time, has a rather unruly storm cloud hovering nearby. Whether it will pour down or just blow over remains to be seen.
Landis can't be admired for cheating or for lying. He's certainly hurt a lot of former supporters who donated to his cause to "Free Floyd" while fighting the 2006 TDF doping infraction. But will he become cycling's equivalent of Jose Canseco--the baseball player whose revelations on rampant steriod use in the Major Leagues were widely mocked and ignored, yet are becoming more and more believable as time goes on? Or will Floyd be exposed as a desperate man who played on people's willingness to believe in "An American Hero" (as his website calls him), yet finally left the sport clutching at straws? Undone by the road rash of his own attempt to throw others under the bus with himself.