Sunday, June 11, 2017

From the Archives - If I Had Defended Floyd Landis


Almost eleven years ago, the American professional cyclist Floyd Landis won the Tour de France, or seemed to until a few days later when it was reported he’d tested positive for testosterone. I immediately wrote a fake newspaper article advancing an alternative explanation for the high levels of testosterone in the rider’s blood. I considered submitting this story to the Daily Peloton, which has published a dozen or so of my articles. But I decided instead just to e-mail the story to my bike pals. My rationale was that until Landis’ guilt was firmly established, I didn’t want to make light of his situation in a public forum.

Two years later, when the last of Landis’ appeals was finally crushed out and it was pretty obvious he’d truly doped, I submitted my story to Daily Peloton with a timely new spin: “If I Had Defended Landis.” They ran the story (with a couple extra caveats). Years later I discovered that many of my articles are no longer available on Daily Peloton’s website due to some server problems. So, in advance of this year’s Tour de France, I have decided to give the story a new home on albertnet.

(Interesting side note: I discovered recently that most of my article, along with a PDF download, are available on the Kool ‘N Fit website. Kool ‘N Fit is an aerosol analgesic designed for athletes, and I’d mentioned it in my story. The Kool ‘N Fit marketing team posted my story here under the headline “Floyd Landis pouring KNF on his privates?” and commented, “LOL we did not see this coming.” I see on their website that their reprint has been viewed over 65,000 times, which is way more pageviews than any of my albertnet posts has received.)

If I Had Defended Landis – July 11, 2008

Now that CAS has dismissed Floyd Landis’s final appeal, it may seem as though his sad fate—to be the first cyclist ever stripped of a Tour de France title for a doping offense—was inevitable. But the law is complicated enough, and public opinion fickle enough, to have brought about a completely different outcome. If Floyd Landis had hired me to defend him, and had gone along with my unique defense strategy, things could have turned out much better for the hapless cyclist. Rather than lay out my approach in its entirety, I offer you here a snapshot, in the form of a hypothetical news story, of how I could have already begun to iron out his case, mere days after his positive test.

Landis’ Latest Shocker
Scandalized cycling star blames failed drug test on night of debauchery
July 29, 2006

The story of Tour winner Floyd Landis took yet another turn today when the cycling star gave a bizarre explanation for his failed drug test. “There’s no need to wait for the B sample,” Landis said at an impromptu press conference. “I can explain everything.”

Shyly admitting that he was just too embarrassed to come clean before, Landis read a brief statement declaring that his above-limit testosterone:epitestosterone ratio was the result of a night of debauchery with Phonak teammate Axel Merckx and two other Tour riders. “My religious upbringing resulted in increased physical response to unclean images. A night of shameful behavior pushed my naturally high testosterone levels past the legal limit. I did not behave in a manner befitting a professional athlete, but I did nothing illegal.”

While Landis elaborated as little as possible during the press conference, Merckx seemed to bask in the limelight, providing a flurry of lurid details. “It all started the night after his disastrous ride on Stage 16,” he explained. “My dad [cycling legend Eddy Merckx] called me and said, “‘Axel, you gotta do whatever it takes to wake that guy up.’

“First we had a couple of beers. One thing led to another and next thing you know we’re looking at Internet porn. Like most of the guys, I’ve got bookmarked, but Floyd had never even seen it. I guess with his [Mennonite] upbringing he got into computers a little late. Anyway, he got more excited than I’ve ever seen him in a bike race. He got so embarrassed he went into the bathroom and poured a bunch of Kool ‘N Fit on his privates.”

Kool ‘N Fit, an obscure sports product developed in the early nineties comprised of equal parts alcohol and marketing hype, is not on any banned list. “It wouldn’t have given Floyd any performance advantage, but it did keep him awake after his second fifth of Jack [Daniels],” Merckx laughed. Too worked up to sleep, Merckx and Landis and two other Tour riders, José Rujano (Quick-Step-Innergetic) and Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel), drove two hours to 17 Etapes, a strip club in Grenoble. “I told Floyd, ‘Before you come out swinging tomorrow in Stage 17, you’re gonna go out swinging at 17 Stages,’” Merckx quipped. “It was quite a scene there. At the door they asked Floyd for ID and he couldn’t understand why. Dude’s been asked to piss in a cup hundreds of times but he’d never been carded in his life.”

Merckx was quick to point out that while they saw some graphic acts at the club, Landis managed to behave himself. “He broke some new ground for himself, sure, but he steered clear of the Champagne Room,” Merckx said. “As always, he was the consummate professional cyclist and obeyed the age-old rule of no sex during a grand tour.”

Merckx explained that the four stayed until the club closed and returned to their hotel mere hours before the start of Stage 17. Rujano passed out on the floor of his room and missed the race entirely. Mercado, reeling from a terrible hangover, dropped out 30 kilometers into the stage. “It was a rough morning, that’s for sure,” Merckx said. “Poor Floyd was still sporting a Woodrow at the start line. I was really worried until he spotted Pereiro in the yellow jersey. Then, man—I could hear the blood rushing out of his member.”

Asked how it was possible for him to channel his pent-up sexual tension into improved athletic performance, Landis replied, “Aw, hell, I’ve been doing that since I was a teenager. Don’t forget, I went to a public high school.”

To investigate whether or not suggestive images could really account for such a swing in testosterone:epitestosterone levels, the Daily Peloton contacted Professor Guido Norbiato of the Faculty Of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Luigi Sacco University Hospital, Milan. Norbiato explained, “I’ve been looking through the medical literature on this, and there have been a few studies. A 1998 study found that static pornographic images drove the T:E level up anywhere from 1.14 +/- 0.07 to 1.52 +/- 0.09 in normal ‘red-blooded’ males. The increase ranged from 30% to 90% in the different subjects studied with an average of 43%. Live sex shows drove it up further, anywhere from 1.21 +/- 0.08 to 1.68 +/-0.10, or 40 to 93% with an average of 55%. This still wouldn’t be quite enough to explain Landis’ increase, but then, the study didn’t include any Mennonites.”

The question is, will Landis’ defense put the issue to rest? Reached for comment, WADA president Dick Pound, whose name takes on new significance in light of current events, was unsure. “It comes down to the definition of ‘natural,’” he stated. “We’ve confiscated Merckx’s laptop and will investigate every cached URL to see what websites these guys visited. I’ve seen stuff out there that’s clearly unnatural.” Pound then flushed bright red and refused to take any more questions.

UCI President Pat McQuaid expressed grave concern about the impact Landis’ revelation will have on cycling. “We’re having to scramble now to develop an Internet ‘acceptable use’ policy before the sport’s reputation is tarnished further,” he lamented. But the ultimate impact of this development has other media entities increasingly optimistic about the sport’s future. “Already the doping story was increasing interest in cycling,” said Outdoor Life Network producer Ralph Edwards. “Drugs represent about the only nexus between cycling and more mainstream sports like baseball. Linking a Tour champion with booze and women may be our best way to reach other OLN viewers, like those who tune in for our Bull & Rodeo shows. Landis may have just blazed a trail between cycling aficionados and the NASCAR set.”

While Landis’ account of his positive A sample has met with widespread skepticism, it has helped to explain circumstances following his incredible comeback victory in Stage 17 from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Morzine. “His post-race behavior did reflect something closer to, well, outright horniness than the effect of a doping product,” said Phonak team physician Dr. Denise Demir. “Just talk to the podium girls.” Sure enough, when the Daily Peloton contacted Stage 17 podium girl Evette Bellefemme, she told us, “You know, it really was weird. The podium routine is always the same—the winner gets three kisses on the cheek from each of us. I’ve never had somebody kiss me back before. And then he asked for my phone number! Mon Dieu!”

The next step in clearing his name will be for Landis to submit to a battery of tests designed to establish the effect of lurid images on his natural testosterone levels. Dozens of fellow Tour riders, in an act of apparent solidarity with Landis, have signed up to participate in the study as a control group. “It’s a completely new test, of course,” said Pound, “but the medical community has been very responsive and our panel is already complete. We should have an answer within a few weeks. Landis may yet be innocent, regardless of the results of the B sample.”

Whatever the outcome of Landis’ doping investigation, chances are good that he will be fighting a difficult public relations battle, and has more than a little explaining to do at home.

For a spoof on how I’d have defended Lance Armstrong, click here.
For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment