Cycling's past isn't doing Landis any favors
In the early spring, I spent a day listening to the man who used to be leader of the Phonak cycling team discuss his drug case. At the time, Tyler Hamilton was 36 years old and a cycling footnote; he'd been found guilty of blood doping two years earlier. I visited him because he was in the middle of an appeal he hoped would allow him to come back and ride in this year's Tour de France."You have to believe me," he said. "I didn't do it." I'd heard Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones say exactly the same thing, and with exactly the same passion, during the BALCO scandals. The sprinters kept flogging the fact that they'd never flunked a drug test. Montgomery wound up getting banned by the IAAF, and a cloud of suspicion still hovers over Jones. Somehow, Hamilton's argument seemed more persuasive. Maybe it was the exquisite furnishings of his home in the mountains outside Boulder, Colo., as if such good taste in furniture somehow didn't correlate with the sensibility of a cheater. Maybe it was his smokingly beautiful wife, Haven, who nodded every time he reached for another conspiracy theory. Maybe, after all the heavy-handed methods used by the feds in the BALCO case, I wanted to believe an athlete who claimed he was being railroaded. Whatever the reason, when Hamilton said the corruption was in the system, not in him, I bit. Then he lost his appeal. The three judges who heard his case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport decided it wasn't a close call. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Even then, he maintained his innocence. "People keep asking me why I'm not more angry," he wrote on his Web site. "And my only response is that there is peace in knowing the truth." A small part of me said, Well, maybe
And I hope Floyd Landis won't have to be the second.Shaun Assael is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
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