- Bonnie D. Ford, Enterprise and Olympic Sports
- 0 Shares
Floyd Landis says he kept the truth about his past to himself for four years, maintaining that he had been wronged and refusing to break cycling's code of silence about his own doping and the environment that made it feasible. About six months ago, he began to seriously consider the possibility of unburdening himself. But it wasn't a straightforward process.
Landis oscillated between thinking he wanted to keep his mouth shut and just keep racing -- preferably with a bigger team than the U.S.-based outfit he rode with last season -- or pull the pin on a giant grenade of information. He contacted the RadioShack and Garmin-Transitions teams asking for jobs last winter and, more recently, pressed Tour of California organizers to include his current team, OUCH-Bahati Foundation, even as he was confiding in some people that he was ready to confess.
Landis said once he made up his mind to reveal his own lies, he fully understood that he would be viewed as a man with an agenda that was not just limited to clearing his own conscience. He said he never asked for a quid pro quo in return for his silence, but is prepared for skepticism, doubt or even outright ridicule of both his story and the motives behind it. He's also hopeful that his disclosures will encourage others in cycling to follow suit.
Landis said that at this point, he intends to keep racing. He said he has not used any banned substances or techniques since returning from his suspension in February 2009.
The following are excerpts from Landis' lengthy interview with ESPN.com last week in which he detailed his own use of performance-enhancing drugs and expanded on e-mails that had already been made public, naming other riders, team staff and management he said also participated in doping. Many of those individuals have denied his allegations and their responses are linked where appropriate:
The facts of the case
Bonnie D. Ford: Did you personally write these e-mails?
Floyd Landis: Yeah, I wrote those. I did.
Q: Implicit in all of this material is the fact that you did use performance-enhancing drugs throughout your career, at least starting with this chronology in 2002 and going through 2006.
A: Yes, correct.
Q: That would mean you also used them during 2006 Tour de France, or in training for it at least?
A: Yes ... I mean, I could sit and talk to you for hours about what I did or didn't do on any given day, but yes, I used them in every Tour de France I ever did.
Q: And again, that would mean that when you said you had never used performance-enhancing drugs after your positive test in 2006, that was not the truth.
A: That was not true, correct.
Q: Were you in fact guilty of using synthetic testosterone during the 2006 Tour de France?
A: No, I was not guilty of that. But at this point, honestly, I don't even care to state it ... I don't even debate it anymore. It's insignificant in my point of view.
Q: I understand that, but at the same time, your case brought to light some flaws in laboratory procedure and testing and so on and so forth -- it's at least going to be a point of curiosity for people whether or not you actually were guilty of that specific offense. I understand you're not trying to defend yourself ... I just want to know if it was true or not. So did you use synthetic testosterone at all during that Tour?
A: No. I had in the past, I had used testosterone in training and I had used it, not in 2002, I don't believe. In 2003 and '04, I [took it] in the form of andriol, which is an oral form ... and then in 2005 I did I think every third day or so use some a testosterone gel, but I can't remember the brand name of it now. After I figured out how to use, or got better at using, or figured out the dose of what I needed to use as far as growth hormone is concerned, I used that instead and had better results with that, so I stopped using testosterone in 2006. Pretty much the whole year I didn't use it.
Q: I realize this is not important in the bigger picture, but you would still contend that the test results that were obtained after Stage 17 [of the 2006 Tour de France] were not correct?
A: Yes, there must be some other explanation, whether it was done wrong or I don't know what ... The problem I have with even bothering to argue it is I have used testosterone in the past and I have used it in other Tours and it's going to sound kind of foolish to say that I didn't. I almost don't feel like arguing at this point. The whole reason I am doing any of this is because I just want to clear my conscience, and I don't want to lie to anybody anymore, including my mom, and I've just had enough of it.
Q: Why are you doing this and why are you doing it now?
A: I'm doing it now because, well, look, with the benefit of hindsight and a somewhat different perspective, I made some misjudgments. And of course, I can sit here and say all day long, if I could do it again I'd do something different, but I just don't have that choice. The problem was I was put in a position where I had to make a decision on which path I was going to take very quickly, because the information on the positive test [at the 2006 Tour] had been leaked and the public knew about it and I had to make some kind of statement, or at least I felt like I did.
Once I did that, it didn't really matter when I changed my story ... I was always told that I was not going to be credible if I changed my story and no one was going to believe me and so I took that that's the party line, that's what I am supposed to do. If I do that, I will be allowed back into cycling.
I also, throughout the past four years, had hoped that the UCI and the anti-doping agency would do something about it, would actually try to fix it. It's become clear now the UCI has no interest in fixing it. [Link: UCI president Pat McQuaid called Landis' claims "scandalous and mischievous."] And now we've come to the point where the statute of limitations on the things I know is going to run out or start to run out next month -- the first time I was given testosterone by Lance Armstrong was exactly eight years ago next month so if I don't say something now then it's pointless to ever say it. [Link: Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel's response to Landis' claims.]
Q: What has lying and being dishonest all this time done to you personally?
A: It's hard to separate just that from all the other things I've learned about the world and things I've been through in four years, so I'm certainly not the same person I was. I tell you, I don't feel guilty at all about having doped. I did what I did because that's what we did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 years or 12 years of hard work to get there, and that was a decision I had to make to make the next step and my choices were, do it and see if I can win, or don't do it and I always tell people I just didn't want to do that and I decided to do it. I actually don't regret that at all ... Having been there, and once you get in that situation it's an easy decision.
I personally performed a blood transfusion on Levi [Leipheimer] in a Tour  where he beat me. It didn't feel like cheating to me. I don't feel in any way like I was lying to the guys I was racing against. I lied to the public because that was the party line of the sport ... It's not a matter of, I'm doing this now because I feel like somehow guilt destroyed my life. If I am going to be on this team [Editor's note: Landis' team is co-sponsored by the Bahati Foundation, which runs inner-city cycling programs in Los Angeles] where I'm encouraging kids to get into cycling, that's where I draw the line on my conscience, I can't tell kids to get involved in this and come from a poor neighborhood with drug problems to even more confusing drug problems. [Link: Response to Landis' claims about Leipheimer.]
Q: So if someone were to say you're doing this out of spite and anger, how much of that is there in the equation along with your wanting to clear your conscience?
A: I have no doubt that people will say that ... There's a little bit of guilt that goes along with having to lie. But if I was given the chance to race, I could deal with that little bit of guilt. But there's no upside for me if I'm not allowed to race and I'm not allowed back into the sport on any level. I'd prefer not to have to deal with the guilt, so I'm going to tell the truth. You can make it out to look like I'm an evil guy, but the fact is, it's a fairly simple choice for me. Yeah, I wanted to race again. I did what I thought I was supposed to do to make that happen. It didn't happen, and so I don't wish to feel guilty anymore.
Q: When you say, "not allowed to race again," can you elaborate on that? From a public standpoint, you came back.
A: I never ended up on a Pro Tour team, and I called the Pro Tour teams that would have been likely to sign me ... The hard races that I do best at are the hard races in Europe, and I need to be on a Pro Tour team for that. And there's just no chance of that anymore.
Q: You also have this pending [hacking] charge, or investigation in France that would make it difficult for you to return to that country. Wouldn't a [Pro Tour] team say, we don't want to have a rider who can't race in France?
A: That's never come up, but there's no reason I can't just deal with that fairly easily. [Editor's note: Landis has denied being involved in the hacking of the computer system at the French lab that processed his test samples.] The accusation there is the failure to appear in court and I would be happy to give any testimony they want regarding any hacking information that I might have. I was never asked about it, and I was never served with any papers, and basically I was accused of a failure to appear. That part would be very easy to resolve if I had the means to do it, but I don't have a job that pays me well enough to even get a lawyer to do it.
Q: Anyone from Lance on down can say, why should anyone believe this guy now, after all of his lies for all these years? What is your response to that?
A: It's fairly simple. I don't care if anyone believes me. I want to tell the truth so that I can feel better about myself. That's it.
Q: So legal and personal attacks, you're ready for that?
A: Certainly. I've had four years to think about it, and you know, I had to make the decision about whether to tell the truth or not at a point four years ago and now there's a few other people that I've named that are going to have to make a decision about what they have to do. People are going to react differently, and I reacted in a way that probably most people would say is not the honorable way of going about it. I made mistakes, and I wish I hadn't lied, and so I can't predict what they're going to do, but they'll do whatever they have to do to make themselves feel better.
Q: Are you emotionally invested in a result here? What do you want to happen as a result of confessing and giving information about other things that you saw?
A: I feel like the way I was treated, considering what I knew and how widespread doping was, was completely unfair, and I don't wish this experience I've had in the last four years on anybody. I went to USADA first, and I asked if -- in vague terms, I told them what I knew, without giving them names, I asked if they would be willing to offer amnesty to riders who came forward. [Editor's note: USADA will not confirm any details of its discussions with Landis.]
So to answer your question about what I really want out of this, apart from just clearing my conscience, I would hope that just one less person ends up in a situation where they have to make the decision or are faced with the decision that I made, because it's not a right or wrong thing, it's a simple decision once you get there. And it's unfortunate, and if one less person has to make that decision, then some good will have come of it.
Q: Do you feel at any point that you risked your health by taking these drugs?
A: No, not at all. There's always a risk with a blood transfusion, but it's small. There are risks in taking anabolics, but in cycling you take extremely small quantities because you don't want to build muscle mass. I never had any adverse effects.
Q: You never had any scares where you woke up in the middle of the night with your blood thick as mud and had to go to the hospital or anything of that kind?
A: No, no, not at all, nothing like that.
Q: Do you have any way to gauge how good an athlete you were without performance-enhancing drugs?
A: Performance-enhancing drugs don't make as big a difference as most people would like to think they do. Nevertheless, I used them to do what I was able to do, so I guess it really doesn't matter. At the time, it was part of the game, and like I say, I don't regret it at all.
Q: So if you were in a fantasy world there were no performance-enhancing drugs and you were racing against all the other guys you were racing against [from 2002 to 2006], you would still be one of the best?
A: I have no way of knowing. I could hypothesize that a given drug would help any given athlete, probably, differently than it would help another one, but I have no way of knowing that.
Q: I've heard it said that drugs can make a great athlete a little better, but they're not going to make a mediocre athlete into a great athlete. Would you agree with that statement?
A: I really don't have enough information to know. I know what I did, and I don't -- I find it hard to believe it would turn somebody who didn't do any training or wasn't in any way talented into an athlete, but I'd guess not.
Evidence, truth and consequences
Q: How much have you told USADA and what, if anything, have they told you they're going to do about it?
A: I told USADA what I know in detail, things that I've seen firsthand and things that people have told me they've done firsthand. I didn't repeat rumors, I didn't repeat secondhand information. I just told them what I had personally seen and I'll let them decide what to do about it. I did suggest that they be lenient with people, because I know what it felt like to go through, and I know that a two-year suspension or a five-year suspension didn't make any difference to me, it was the damage that was done in the press that would hurt the most ... They're going to get humiliated and they're going to get punished beyond what anyone could understand except for someone who's been through it. At the very least, I think that if guys are honest with them, they should be at least somewhat sympathetic to those people.
Q: Did they talk to you about what other evidence you might have?
A: I told them they're welcome to have my training diaries, in which I have written down in code when I did what I did, whether it was blood extraction, or a blood transfusion in a race, or outside of a race, and other times that I did a dose of anything else. I also have training diaries written out by Michele Ferrari which have also in code, indications of when I should use EPO and things like that. I'll give them that ... All I have is what I remember and I remember it quite vividly because some of the things I saw were not ordinary. And I'm happy to tell them and they're welcome to do whatever they want with it. Again, it's in the hope that something good comes out of it. The good that'll come out of it for me is certainly that I now, today, got to tell my mom the truth. I get to sleep better at night. I already feel better.
Q: How did she take it?
A: She wasn't sure what to make of it, but she said she was happy that I was telling the truth. That's all she cared about. She wanted just to know that I'm OK. I wasn't worried that my mom was going to change her mind about loving me. It just wasn't easy to tell her I lied to her for so long.
Q: Do you think she was surprised?
A: She sounded surprised.
Q: About the diaries, is this your habit to do this or did you start doing it when you got on a doping program?
A: No, I just added that doping part to whatever diaries I had already been keeping. I have diaries since I was 18 or 19 years old for every year up until 2006 and the Tour. I haven't written one down since.
Q: Why would you keep something that ultimately could incriminate you?
A: It's all written in very complex code, whatever is incriminating. It would be easy to argue that it means something else, put it that way. I never kept anything else. I never kept any physical evidence, I never took any pictures, I was very careful about not leaving any other evidence behind. But I did want to know for my own sake what I had done and when, just for the sake of knowing how I felt the weeks following and to refine it for my own use. I guess there was a little risk in writing it down, but of course the times I was writing it down, I also had the drugs with me, so if anyone had found the diaries, they probably would have found that, so there wasn't a huge risk of that being any worse, really.
Q: As well as writing down what you were doing dopingwise, did you write down what you observed other people doing?
A: No, I didn't.
Q: So some of these statements that you're making about other riders, would they boil down to your word against theirs in the end?
A: I suppose so, yeah.
Q: You've already thought about the fact that there might be some collateral damage here, on guys that you're very fond of, and rode with for a long time and were or are friends with. Is that a hard part of this for you?
A: Yeah, that's why it took so long. Part of the decision I made in the first place to fight the entire thing was, I have, and maybe it's a character flaw of mine, but I have a hard time telling a half-truth ... How would I go about saying that I, for example, had a program of performing blood transfusions in the race in the years I was on the Postal Service team, but no one else helped me or knew about it? I didn't know how to tell the story without incriminating the other people. So it might have looked like a simple thing from the outside to just tell the truth, but to tell the truth I was going to hurt a lot of people that I care about and that I don't feel like are any more guilty of anything than I myself am.
Look, I broke the rules, I'm not trying to downplay that. What I did was against the rules and I've served my time and I deserved to. But that doesn't change the fact that the decisions I made were made under the same circumstances as the decisions that the other guys made to do it, and I know that what they did wasn't meant in any way to harm anyone else. So I had to think it through. How do I tell the truth about me without anybody at the very least inferring that many other people would have been involved? It would have been absurd for me to say the detail about the things that I knew and then claim that I invented doping. There weren't any good choices apart from hurting a lot of other people and I knew what it felt like to go through it because I was going through it at the time and I didn't wish it on anyone. But I guess I hoped over a long period of time that it would get better and it would get fixed, but the foxes are guarding the henhouse, as they say, and it's never going to change until it all gets exposed.
Q: Do you have an opinion about whether things are any different now in performance-enhancing drug use in cycling as opposed to when you were with a Pro Tour team?
A: I'd prefer, and I decided when I decided to do this, that I'm going to state things that I've seen and things that I know for sure, and I'd rather keep my opinions to myself because I don't see that helping anybody.
Q: How much would you say you spent, average, at the height of your career, in a season, on the substances and the advice?
A: The actual substances are not very expensive. The amount you would need for a season for a cyclist is probably $10,000. The advice -- depends who you want it from. If you want it from Ferrari, you pay him 10 percent of your salary. Then it's a matter of, if you want to do blood transfusions, figuring out the logistics and having people watching it and driving it around, and that gets expensive. I would say if you wanted to do it without making any huge mistakes and taking any huge risks, $30,000-40,000 wouldn't be too little to do it right.
Q: Can you list for me the substances you used over the course of your career that were banned?
A: I used EPO, I used testosterone in a couple different forms, I used human growth hormone, I tried, one time, insulin, because some people like to use insulin as a complement to growth hormone or other anabolics, but I did not feel well at all. I ate like four boxes of cookies and was dizzy for a while, so I never did that again.
A: No, I never used any, because I never had a problem being motivated to train. I never used any kind of amphetamines or anything like that. There's two pregnancy hormones that stimulate testosterone and I used one of them. I didn't feel like it did anything for me. And I did blood transfusions. That's it. I never tried any crazy stuff that it was unknown what the effects might be. What I was doing was effective enough.
Q: Do you have any plans to apologize or refund any money [to donors to his defense fund]?
A: I absolutely wish I could give it all back. I didn't keep any of it for myself, and I don't have the funds to give it back. If I ever come to a place in life where I can, nothing would make me happier than to pay it back. As far as apologizing, I'm absolutely sorry for ever having lied to anybody. There's no one to blame here but me. But that doesn't fix it ... I don't expect them to just forget about it because I'm sorry. That is something I've thought about long and hard, and my choices are not good either way. On the one hand, I can just keep a secret to myself and let them think they gave money to the truth, or I can tell them the truth and just make them feel really bad and foolish and hope to make it up somehow. Neither one's good.
Q: Are you still in some way influenced by your upbringing as a Mennonite, even though you don't practice that religion, just in terms of drawing the boundaries between good and bad?
A: I grew up in a pretty simple way. Things were fairly black and white and life's not really like that. But they've done a pretty good job of making it that way if you live there. The situation in which I ended up a couple years ago I couldn't have imagined if I had tried to make it up. And it just kept getting more and more confusing. And I knew all along that once I had taken a certain position, as soon as I changed my story, the accusation was going to be, you're not credible. But I decided finally that I don't care anymore. I just want to feel better. I want to be OK with myself. I don't have any more desire to protect anybody, including myself. I want to sleep at night. If you ask me a question, I get to tell the facts and I can walk away feeling better about myself. I had not had that in a long time.
I wish it didn't hurt other people in the process. I wish there was a way to do it where I guess the façade stayed the way that it is, but it's just not true. There's no way to tell the truth without involving other people, because the truth involves other people. I wouldn't have been able to handle it before, but I can take the accusations of being bipolar and crazy and whatever else people want to call me. I decided I'm just going to state the facts and whatever people say, whatever people want to believe ... They're going to believe whatever they're going to believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. And that's not my problem anymore. I'm just going to tell them the truth.
Q: Do you, in fact, feel better yet?
A: Yeah, I've felt better right from the start of the first person I told. I couldn't believe how much better I felt ... Every person I've told has first of all reacted with, "Why would anybody believe you," and then after an hour or two hours of details, it's clear that even if they maintain people won't believe me, it becomes clear on their face that they do believe me ... Is it best sometimes just to cover up the past and pretend it didn't happen, because it looks like it's getting better? But at some point, I had to worry about me. I didn't feel well. I didn't like having to lie. I just needed to tell my mom the truth, all of it. And I did today. It wasn't pleasant.
Q: As long as we're on super-emotional subjects, you mentioned David [Witt], and I guess you must feel somehow like he was affected by what you did. [Editor's note: Witt committed suicide in August 2006. He was Landis' father-in-law at the time. Landis told Ford that on one occasion, he asked Witt to stay in an apartment in the south of France to make sure his supply of refrigerated blood was secure.]
A: Yeah, of course he was. Because he was involved, and he helped. And I've got to believe that if things didn't happen the way they did, he'd still be alive. I'm not saying that's the reason he's dead, but without that, I don't see why he wouldn't still be here. And he was my best friend, and I [long pause] yeah. Look, I feel for everybody else who's gotten named here, I feel for all these people who have to deal with this now. I know how unpleasant it was for me, and I know how your best friends turn against you and say all kinds of crazy things. I wouldn't wish it on anybody, but I can't take it anymore. I don't want to be that guy anymore.
Q: Well, that's pretty clear from what you're saying.
A: Yeah, but I'm really afraid that what I'm saying is going to come across as, this guy's just mad as hell, and I'm not mad. I actually feel better than I've felt in many, many years.
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Excerpts from Landis' lengthy interview with ESPN.com last week in which he detailed his own use of performance-enhancing drugs and expanded on e-mails that had already been made public, naming other riders, team staff and management he said also participated in doping.