Floyd Landis has been back in the news this week, albeit by default. The American who won the 2006 Tour de France and was subsequently stripped of it after failing a dope test became one of Lance Armstrong's whistle-blowers that led, ultimately, to his fellow American's downfall.
Now that Armstrong has lost all seven Tour titles, his sponsors and, seemingly, much of his fortune, it is as if other dope cheats have emerged as respectable heroes in the murky world of cycling. Compared to Armstrong, they are, but only compared to Armstrong. I spent a day with Landis in Borrego Springs, a southern Californian town in the desert, in November, 2006. He was an interesting, entertaining and quite believable individual. It took me hours to find him from my Los Angeles base and when I did it was just me and him, a couple of drinks, and the piercing sun reflecting off the sand.
He was utterly convincing when he stated his innocence. The laboratory had obviously got it wrong. He even felt sorry for the predicament cycling faced, because either their Tour de France champion was a cheat, or their doping system was incorrect. He looked me straight in the eye and swore his innoncence. Appeal after appeal would follow, all finding in favour of cylcing against Landis until, in 2010, he finally admitted to doping. The fact that he provided evidence against Armstrong, who refused to help him get back into cycling, does not suddenly erase his own misdemeanours. The fact is that while Armstrong may be the outright winner when it comes to doping in cycling the likes of Landis, Jan Ullrich and others are all part of the stench that has stained the sport.