Floyd Landis and the Magic Water Bottle: Part I

I’m no friend of Floyd Landis. I wanted to get that statement up front so that no one thinks that this post is motivated by friendship – or conversely, by any lack thereof. I’m not Floyd’s enemy, either. We were nothing but fellow competitors, each following our own individual paths through what is arguably one of the most difficult sports in the world.

I did not know Floyd particularly well. We saw each other at the races – mostly the NORBA National Off-Road Championship Series. I was actually nearing the tail end of my career, a culmination of more than twenty years in the saddle, the last 8 or so as a professional road cyclist – a good portion of which was spent toiling on the roads of Europe just another journeyman professional doing a mostly anonymous days work for a less anonymous team leader. Floyd, on the other hand, was really just getting started – at the time he hadn’t even begun to focus on road racing. As a mountain bike racer Floyd was a decent but by no means great rider. You’d never have guessed what his potential was had you seen him race a mountain bike – at least not that early in his career.

We’d chatted from time to time and shared the same degree of mutual respect that all people that have shared certain experiences – particularly those that come with lots of suffering – seem to have for one another. We did share some mutual friends though and from them as well as from the brief discussions we did have I got the distinct impression that Floyd was a good guy, a fair minded person and certainly a determined competitor.

Put plainly I don’t have any axes to grind about Floyd one way or another. Certainly I would not put my own credibility at risk defending him nor would I jeopardize it by reviling him just to prove a point.

With that said I have decided that I need to address with some specificity the issue of Floyd’s purported doping during this past year’s Tour de France and particularly Floyd’s dominating performance on the 17th stage. If you’re reading this I’m assuming that you know that a few days following Floyd’s victory in the overall general classification of the Tour de France it was announced that Floyd had tested positive for synthetic testosterone following his epic 17th stage victory.

In short order, Floyd was sacked by his team, vilified by the press, skewered by many of his competitors and most importantly treated like a convicted criminal by the UCI and by WADA – the Union Cycliste International and the World Anti-Doping Association respectively. In the United States even the most obvious of criminals have certain rights accorded them. Among these, being considered innocent of the crime until proven guilty is arguably the most important.

It seems to me that a similar standard should exist in sport and further that all athletes in all sports should be treated in the same manner when a test for controlled substances yields an anomalous result.

In Floyd’s case, however, his treatment was pretty much exactly the opposite of this reasonable practice. Even before independent analysis of the results, the testing procedures or the second sample were conducted Floyd was pretty much tried, convicted and branded “cheater”. In fact from the looks of it, major news organizations were actually informed of Floyd’s first sample coming back positive even before Floyd himself was informed.

For the record that is NOT how it is supposed to be done. In fact, if following (or failing to follow) the rules is such a sacrosanct ideology for the UCI and WADA then it is the ultimate in hypocrisy that Floyd’s doping test results were leaked to the press at all until after the second sample had been tested – something that could have been weeks or even months down the road.

The truth is that positive or not, Floyd wasn’t treated in a fashion that could have even remotely been described as fair. To get an idea of just how badly stacked the odds were, consider just how many different factions were invested in proving Floyd guilty: first there was the French in general, still smarting after seven years of Lance taking home the coveted gold fleece in their national tour – and all without a single positive dope test to sully his achievement, then there was the lab itself that was smarting from a resounding indictment the prior winter when an investigation by the UCI found so many violations of the approved practices for conducting doping controls that the report suggested that the license of the lab be pulled for non-compliance, add to this the press that were having a field day with the soft spoken Landis – who himself was suddenly thrown to the lions – by his own team no less – who immediately fired him which no doubt added immeasurably to the air of guilt that was condensing around the confused champion.

Floyd’s own reaction did little to dispel the public perception that he’d cheated. His explanation for the positive left more than a little to be desired and the fact that he offered a number of different plausible (though in some cases extremely unlikely) reasons for failing the control – many of which were made in statements on national television – helped many people make up their minds that the guy had juiced his way to a victory.

It didn’t help matters that another former Tour de France champion, Greg LeMond was weighing in on the issue and not to Floyd’s benefit. No one bothered to check if there were old vials of LeMond’s urine from tours gone past lying around just waiting to be examined by some enterprising laboratory. Lucky for Greg that this is true – and that unlike Lance and Floyd – there was no testing for the really serious drugs like rEPO back when Greg and his preternaturally blue eyes stood atop the podium in Paris.

Just what relevance the former champion, LeMond, had to Floyd’s situation is a mystery to me. Greg had already proven himself to be the most miserable sort of former champion. A man that begrudged the successes of the next generation – a selfish, insecure, narrow-minded asshole that instead of looking upon the accomplishments of those that followed in his footsteps with pride knowing that these younger athletes had confirmed the validity of his legacy, instead felt that by some evil twist of fate they somehow diminished his victories. The truth of course, is that the only thing that has diminished Greg’s victories is Greg himself. Merckx, Hinault, Indurain, Anqueteil – great champions all – made greater by their respect for the performance of those that came later and their love of the sport. When I was a young rider, Greg was one of my heroes. Today I want to spit when I say his name. He’s a hypocrite, a liar, and to be honest an object of pity and scorn – he should have just ridden his bike and let his legs do the talking – his mouth has done him no favors. But I digress…

It wasn’t just Greg LeMond that had it in for Floyd. The other big gun – and in this realm a much more dangerous foe – was Dick Pound, the head of WADA. To say Dick had it in for cyclists is like saying the Pope is Catholic. It seemed to incense him that Armstrong had never been nailed to the proverbial cross for doping and it seemed he’d be damned if another cyclist – and particularly an American one – would skate by on his watch.

In some respects it appeared that Floyd was being victimized by his former team captain’s near decade of unbroken tour dominance. It almost felt like the collective frustration that the majority of the sporting world had felt during Lance’s unshakable grasp upon the tour was being vented upon this upstart American with the injured hip who had no right to finish – let alone win – the Tour de France… (continued tomorrow)

About Oliver

Oliver Starr is a well known blogger, speaker and serial entrepreneur. His current blogging is focused on mobile technology and applications, green (eco-protective) technologies, and entrepreneurs and their companies. He is currently engaged as the Community Evangelist for Pearltrees.com, a new social curation tool. Oliver was also a professional cyclist and six time member of the US National Cycling Team.
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17 Responses to Floyd Landis and the Magic Water Bottle: Part I

  1. Welcome to the party! We linked this into today’s roundup of Landis new at http://trustbut.com and look forward to tomorrow’s followup.


  2. Jon says:

    From Topix.net:
    July 31, 2006
    “So what color is the sky in your world”
    “I raced against LeMond, EPO couldn’t be detected at the time but was widely available. Who says LeMond was clean? Him? Look at his performance from beginning of the year to the end. His improvement was beyond miraculous the year he won the Tour after being shot- it was indescribable: Dropped at DuPont by the sprinters on the climbs, to winning the Tour a few months later. Unnatural is the only word that comes to mind for that kind of improvement and I was there to see it first hand.”

    “LeMond should shut up lest someone find an old vial of his urine on ice somewhere and run a few tests on it…”

    Oliver Starr

    The most profound statement I have ever read in any cycling forum. More of this please.


  3. aka says:


    been a looooong time. last time we talked it was about your wolves (94).

    wow, time flies.

    do not let anyone try to come sniffing around and intimidate you. it is all bluster. “he” has been known to go around threatening anyone/everyone who tries to scrape at the past. f that guy. f his stories. f him

    do not be intimidated. seriously, if you need any help, i will get up with you, just post your digits if you want to discuss.


  4. Pingback: Floyd Landis and the Magic Water Bottle: Part II | StarrTrek

  5. admin says:

    Jon, I’m glad you approve. Stay tuned for what I really think about the Landis debacle. What I have to say is likely to upset a few apple carts.

    AKA… please forgive me but I cannot figure out who you are from the initials and the link the the website. I hope you are not offended as the sleight is certainly not intentional.

    I tried to email you directly however the address from the post bounces so… you can reach me at 4-one-5-704-4544. Give me a call – I’d love to solve the mystery of your identity and I love catching up with people I haven’t talked to in ages.

    You don’t even have to help me deal with Jack Lemon…unless of course that is something you want to do….


  6. Jon says:

    Sorry…I had no intention to mislead you. The paragraph is in quotations, the author is YOU. You made the comment on topix.net last July, I merely quoted YOU. We have never met and I have never raced against LeMond.
    But I agree with your assessment of LeMond. I wanted more historical information that supports your assertion that LeMond may have used performance enhancement.
    I am extremely interested in your Landis article.
    Please forgive me for the confusion I may have caused you.

  7. admin says:

    Jon, there was no confusion at all. I knew I said that, I knew that your compliment was genuine. I wasn’t being the least bit sarcastic with my response – in fact I was simply and sincerely appreciative that someone “got” what I was saying and realized the truth in my words.

    No harm, no foul, no apology necessary. Thanks for Reading!


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  9. Miksurf says:

    I want to thank you for writing this commentary on Landis. I read his book, and it seems clear that WADA’s only intent, after erroneously rushing to judgement based on flawed lab procedures, was to protect its own ass. Floyd’s life and career have been destroyed, rather than elevated by his phenomenal success on the TDF. The recent denial of his appeal is is one of the most tragic events in sports history. The TDF is first and foremost a money maker in Europe. It seems to me that the TDF organizers are more concerned about growing USA domination, and losing European interest, than they are about international cycling performance. Lance and Floyd kicked everyone’s ass, end of story. Levi would have been a contender, but they axed him too. A big fuck you to the TDF and Dick-head Pound. I’m not watching this year. Maybe never again.

  10. Pingback: CAS Refuses to Hear Landis Appeal. Positive Doping Verdict Upheld. | StarrTrek

  11. Pingback: Floyd Landis and the Magic Water Bottle: Part III — StarrTrek

  12. Burger1097 says:

    Thanks for you statements regarding Floyd and Greg. If he’s up for it, I’m looking forward to seeing Floyd and Lance back in the tour. If either gets onto the podium, what would Greg say? One can only hope a micraphone will be handy.

  13. Joe says:

    Part 2 please!!! What I find so confusing is this. He simply destroid stage 17 like none other. He took back the tour and held on to win. This alone would be the talk of the town for years to come but what people forgot was he was riding on a hip that needed to be replaced! Lance survived cancer, albeit a very treatable form, to win 7 times. WOW is all can be said! But Floyd road and won the tour in how much pain? This alone should have been what the media focused on not trying to hang a devil. But our media is out to crucify anyone they feel can make them money. Faulty lab test and all simply will not make them rich but vilifying the winner will. I hope Floyd rides in the 2009 tour and finish it with a prostetic hip. I wonder if the media will print that?

  14. admin says:


    I’ve already written three parts as well as the final CAS decision on Landis’ appeal. You can find those pieces here, here, and here


  15. Pingback: Floyd Landis and the Magic Water Bottle: Part III | We Blog The World

  16. Pingback: CAS Refuses to Hear Landis Appeal. Positive Doping Verdict Upheld. | We Blog The World

  17. Pingback: Floyd Landis and the Magic Water Bottle: Part II | We Blog The World

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