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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Floyd Landis case - new developments

Emails were leaked, better controls are the aim

The web, sports, and cycling world is buzzing as the initial story breaks and as more details trickle in.  Since the story broke and since we posted it here earlier, there are have been responses from the likes of Lance Armstrong, Jonathan Vaughters, and former Phonak owner Andy Rihs. 

In addition, to illustrate how cycling fans have responded, in the past 18 h over 1316 posts on the Cyclingnews.com forum on this topic.  The responses there cover everything from legal strategies to support for Landis to support for Armstrong.  So far it has all remained pretty civil, amazingly!

Strength in numbers---n = 1

A common hope is that now Landis has owned up, another cyclist that was named or part of USPS during that era will also now own up.  Tyler Hamilton is the name most feel is in the best position to also admit, but the key is that many think without physical evidence Landis's claims will be quashed by the infamous Armstrong PR machine.  Already, Sally Jenkins published a text that begins to deflect the spotlight from the athletes and instead asks more philosophical questions.

So the fans are all hoping that Landis's admission will in some way encourage at least one other cyclist, current or former, to speak out and break the omerta.  Whether or not this is the case is anyone's guess, but this is the optimistic opinion.

No credibility for Floyd

On the other side, the pessimists point out that Landis lost much credibility over the past few years by denying to no end that he doped.  Placed against the well-known PR machine behind Armstrong, these fans are sure that Landis's claims will be easily quashed and the status quo will remain.

The latest info of sorts comes from Neil Brown, writing for Versus.com.  He claims to have spoken to Landis directly this morning, and Landis says the email was leaked to the media without his knowledge.  Ok, fair enough, we all know how easy it is to hit the "Forward," after all.   The interesting and newer info:
  • Landis alleges Amrstrong knew about the emails from Landis to USA Cycling
  • Armstrong allegedly contacted Landis's friend and sponsor Dr. Brent Kay, and made veiled threats about revoking Kay's medical license
  • Landis responded by telling Armstrong to stay away from his friends and rather deal directly with him
  • On 5 May Landis wrote to Armstrong:
"As you certainly know I've been living with a very complex situation for the last four years and have been, for my own sake and for the sake of my former friends and peers, misleading the public about the truth about performance enhancing drug use in cycling about which I have first-hand knowledge. My only goal in enlightening the public and the press regarding these matters is to clear my conscience and thereafter be able to sleep at night.

He said/he said

Of course right now this is still a "My word against yours" scenario, and one can only hope that Landis does indeed have some stronger evidence to back up his claims.  If not, and if no one helps corroborate his story, he will quickly be discredited, and will add the title "Sore Loser" to his "Doper" label.

In the meantime the discussion rolls on, and if you have not yet read the Cyclingnews.com thread, you should do so as it will provide you with all the different arguments for and against all sides of the debate.  For now we will continue to watch it unfold, and provide our insight and analysis in due course.



David Guedalia said...

What does this post have to do with The Science of Sports?

Sounds more like the Psychology or the Politics of Sports.

JeroenK said...

I agree with idavidg.

There was a time (not so long ago) your site was about science and the best discussions were about controversial science in sports. I really liked that and started to follow your posts.

Now it seems Science has left the building and only controversy in sports is left.

I might be misinterpreting you, but your posts sound a bit biased. Like it is a good thing someone with a high pedigree speaks up 'about the real things that were happening'. Well.. let us first find out wether or not there is truth in these allegations. I trust Lance Armstrong as much as I trust Floyd Landis, but once I read allegations about the chief of the UCI being bribed by the Armstrong camp to sweep a positive result under the rug, I smell something fishy.

I would find it very hard to believe that the head of the UCI has the task to connect sample numbers to rider identity. That means more UCI, WADA or National Cycling Union or doping agency persons will be involved. The more are involved, the harder such a coverup can be held in place for a significant period of time.

Please find the science in all of this or at least try to explore the facts around the different area's of Floyd's allegations, like how the positive result disclosure process works.

Joe Garland said...

The elephant in the room for any discussion of cycling is drugs. Does it permeate every SoS post on cycling, no. But there have been more than a few discussions about whether performances have been boosted by drugs to make statements by a drugger well within the scope of this site's mission.

Ross and Jonathan have been ripped before for, and responded to allegations of their, being in the anti-Armstrong camp. Here's something from 2008 in which they challenged a "scientific" study that supposedly presented an innocent, i.e., non-pharmeceutical, explanation for Armstrong's performance with a response from SoS on the scope of the site.

And guys, I too am waiting for the discussion of the Michael Ashenden's interview.

Anonymous said...


too detailed to sound fake!

Gene said...

Jonathan, I think the reference to Sally Jenkins is unfair on two counts. First, her article was by all appearances occasioned by the indictment of Galea, not the Landis affair. Second, she raises essential issues and distinctions that rarely get posed publicly in the highly moralistic atmosphere in which we live.

One thing she doesn't touch upon, but should be of vital interest to sports scientists, is the criminalization of sports drugs. You (or Ross) recently commented about was the lack of understanding about the effects of hGH, especially because of the lack of research using elite athletes. I would think medical science and humanity, not just athletes, would have a lot to gain from such research. But how can it occur, with hGH, PEDs or any other sports-related substance, unless controlled studies can be run? And that is effectively impossible given their criminalization. The result is a blackmarket, with new drugs, new ways to get around the rules, and endless scandals and suspicion. Not very healthy for sports, sports scientists or anyone else.

Ross Tucker said...

Hi idavidg and Jeroen

Thanks for the comments.

I'm afraid your criticisms are old news here. Whenever we post something that is opinionated, someone, somewhere, whips out the "scientist" stick and beats us with it. Like Joe says, we've had this debate before, and I'll gladly have it again.

This site exists for two reasons.

Number 1 is to provide a scientific spin on sports news. I was tired of reading journalist's interpretations of sport where the missing link was some knowledge of the sport. We believe, and you may disagree, that we have insider insight into the matters of sports performance, including doping.

I have, for example, been fortunate enough to work with a Tour de France winner and numerous other professional athletes and have first hand insight into doping. My scientific background leads me to an opinion which this blog serves to put forward.

Look back on the history of the site, since you are so versed in it. We have covered dehydration, Oscar Pistorius, Caster Semenya, muscle cramps, Pose running etc.

Every single one of those topics is controversial. They are sports news stories. They involve science. And they are controversial.

Now you have a story about doping in science. It is a sports news story. It involves science. And it is controversial.

The only difference is that this time, you disagree with me. But you are unable to look beyond your own disagreement and bias to appreciate that this is no different to anything we've done before. Or have you not read those previous posts properly?

I will not defend my biases, and nor will Jonathan defend his. We very clearly state on this site that we interpret the news. We are not a scientific journal, and if you want that, then there are many I can suggest.

But we do offer our views, with what we'd like to think is a background that people find valuable.

I'm sorry you don't on this occasion, but please, save the "scientist" and the "science has left the building" jibes. They're irrelevant. You disagree. Fine.


Tommy Booth said...

Hey Johnathan & Ross,

Sorry my comment has nothing to do with the post, but I thought this would be a good way to get hold of you guys.

I ordered your book 'The Runners Body'through amazon and I'm reading on page 11 it says: "The illustration on page 12 depicts the quadriceps..." but I page over and there's no illustration on page 12 or anywhere of any quads. It makes it a little difficult to understand the discussion that follows. Are there different versions of your book? Did I get a dud?

I've got a soft cover version, the cover also doesn't look exactly like the picture of the book on your site.


Clara said...

Point of information on the linked to Jenkins article. Yesterday news broke in the US that a current NFL player was about to be linked to HGH use. That player is a member of the Washington Redskins. Now unless the Armstrong PR machine could get the US DEA to leak said info right before Landis planned to go public, I'm inclined to give Jenkins the benefit of the doubt for that particular article.

I think it's just an issue of odd timing.

Additionally, Landis is all ready claiming he's planning a book, and the dates he's presented regarding the alleged UCI bribe are off by a calender year.

I'm not willing to call Armstrong a clean athlete. But I'm not overly inclined to treat Landis as credible given his past history.

Unknown said...

The sport of cycling has a tricky issue in hand if these allegations are true. On one hand, there is a clear responsibility to address the allegations and seek the truth. On the other hand, to have a large group of this past decade's cycling greats torn down would do as much, if not more, damage to the sport. And I would ask, if the abuse was so pervasive, would the sport of cycling (and, for that matter, anyone else) really benefit from punishing only the few that are most widely recognized?

Don't get me wrong, I have no tolerance or compassion or for anyone that broke the rules in order to enhance their performance, but it is not clear who wins by picking off well knowns at the top. It's not like the issue is new or there is something we are going to learn that will create an inflection point in our thinking today. In my mind, better to make sure the "shop" is clean today and in the future.

David Guedalia said...

Hey Ross,

I feel that you misread my post (as well as JeroenK's final request).

Of course it is your blog and you are entitled to your opinion, however, my expectation is that each post will include 'a scientific spin on sports news'

I can't find in the short article 'Floyd Landis case' a scientific spin on sports news.

Maybe its there, but please expand on your unique perspective/insights/analysis.

I would appreciate an explanation of the long-term physiological/psychological benefits of doping or for that matter if there is a 'sore loser' syndrome.


Gene said...

One thing that sits very ill in episodes like this is that while Floyd Landis says he's trying to clear his conscience by admitting guilt to the charges (and more), he goes far beyond that. In effect, he tries to play the conscience of others, when what he's really doing is saying, "I'm not going down alone." And it's all done not straightforwardly, but under the guise of delivering a detailed chronology about his acts. The chronology and diaries are unnecessary; naming others is gratuitous, the opposite of a statement of individual responsibility and integrity. It's no wonder that the veracity of his tale is suspect, worship of icons like Armstrong and Hincapie notwithstanding. Nonetheless, ill intentions don't necessarily mean the story is false - that's to be investigated - only that Landis is a big turd.

JeroenK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JeroenK said...

Hi Ross,

You are right. I just read your mission statement for the 2nd time and it turns out I forgot about the 'opiniated' bit, so I really started off on the wrong foot. The statement does state that you try to base your opinion on the truth and provide an insight the 'popular' media cannot bring.

Then again, I would like to encourage you to put some emphasis on truth and insight! Nothing wrong with opinions, but that is what I missed. Anyone can argue it is very likely organised doping exists or existed, because it is impossible to prove something does not exist.

Let me make one thing clear: I do not disagree. Maybe my text gave you the wrong idea; I am not a native English speaker. My view is: If the things Floyd is talking about existed, they should come out. I just want to point out they should be proved based on facts, not made likely by hearsay, because there is enough of that in the popular media and cycling forums are full of it.

Chances are you are never able to prove what really happened, but to me you have proven to be able to provide some context information that is true and that others can base their opinion on and that is what I would like to encourage you to do.

In my view, that is a lot better than the old 'I know a pro and he says everyone dopes''He knows, because he heard from other pro's that other pro's dope'.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi idavidg, and Jeroen

Thanks for the replies. Agreed, and points taken on all fronts.

I still believe the site has a purpose as a news site. If I tried to find a science link ALL the time, I think it would come across as forced. So the options are to do exclusively science stories or to try to be relevant and provide insight, which is my preferred option.

But I take your point, and Jeroen, I agree with you on the testing the authenticity of these claims. I see some have already begun to challenge them, but what I find most disturbing is how easily it is being dismissed from within cycling. It is little wonder that the truth never comes out, because the consequences of speaking are severe. So perhaps Landis' claims are ridiculous and false, but somewhere, there is someone who does have the truth, but they'll never speak out because of the backlash against their character.

That is a massive problem, to me anyway, and I adopt the other extreme in response, which is why I celebrate someone who is saying things like this. Remember, that if anyone knows, it is Landis. So while it is easy to dismiss him as a cheat and a liar, he is also the man in the best position to reveal what goes on. This is, I guess, the catch 22 for authorities and police, in all forms of 'crime' - their most likely 'snitch' is also the least likely to be trusted!

But I believe Landis' claims to at least be serious enough to warrant investigation. Just as David Walsh's were, but got squashed.

Anyway, that's besides the point of your emails. So points taken, and certainly, rest assured that we do try to find the science/analysis in all the stories, but there are times when that doesn't happen, though I'd still like to believe we rise above the level of forums and other websites by at least trying to seek insight and understanding! Though that is a matter of opinion!

Thanks again for the follow-up emails and your support!


Andrew Gannon said...

I am a amateur cyclist and an avid fan of professional cycling (including cheering for Armstrong in various tours). Drugs have unfortunately taken root in cycling and I feel landis's email rings true. I think your articles have been thoughtful and refect the most likely reality/outcomes. In terms of the link to science surely the allegations of widespread pharmaceutical use is fair ground for your thoughts and opinions!.
Thanks for your site and your wisdom and tolerence.

Gregwh said...

If the allegations are true doesn't someone have a cell phone photo, recording, needlej or blood bag with DNA on it...I don't believe you could cheat 24 hours a day for 20 years and not leave a shred of proof. Unless of course, there is no proof because it never happened.

Quote from the movie Body Heat

"[Ned is getting the arson set-up from Teddy]
Teddy Lewis: I got a serious question for you: What the f**k are you doing? This is not shit for you to be messin' with. Are you ready to hear something? I want you to see if this sounds familiar: any time you try a decent crime, you got fifty ways you're gonna f**k up. If you think of twenty-five of them, then you're a genius... and you ain't no genius. You remember who told me that?
[Ned nods, "yes"] "

Frans Rutten said...

Gregwh said

"I don't believe you could cheat 24 hours a day for 20 years and not leave a shred of proof."

Lance Armstrong certainly wasn’t performing all year at the highest level. Not so much more (exaggerating, but still..) than during those obvious three weeks.

So IF: Lance didn’t have to worry all year about timeframes to be certain not getting caught and would then have to use only certain loopholes for a rather short time.

That’s what also worries me with Usain Bolt. Unregular racing terms and unregularly performances compared to his highest standard. This all after he transformed in half a year from a regular loser to a unbeatable athlet.

Velonews article “Truth, lies and the impossibility of timetravelling” sums in a nutshell how complicated these matters are.

My opinion is as follows: Lance Armstrong exposed himself by his come-back. The difference in performance between back then and nowadays is too big to get explained in a normal manner. So he is IMO guilty by association of by circumstancial evidence as you wish. After all this is sport. In daily life you have to deal with a whole other set of beliefs.

But make no mistake: Road Cycling declined recently in the same manner as Athletics began decling at the end of the 20th century, although not over the whole segment.

Apart from all the doping affaires in the first decade of this century (300) it’s clear, that a few years back most certainly all the stage road performances were in one way or another tainted.

Out of the book “LA’s training programmes”:
Recovery time 24-36 hours for 10-30minutes performing above OBLA(Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation).
Recovery time 36-48 hours for performing 45 min or longer above OBLA.

Anonymous said...


the dates he's presented regarding the alleged UCI bribe are off by a calender year.

You have misunderstood the claim. The claim is Landis was told about the UCI bribe the year AFTER Armstrong's win/positive test at the Tour of Switzerland.