Floyd Landis insists he wasn't using drugs during the 2006 Tour de France and has assembled a team of experts to prove his innocence. (Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
In-Depth: Cycle of denial
One-on-one with Floyd Landis
Excerpts of CBC News's exclusive Canadian interview with the Tour de France's tainted champion
Last Updated Thurs., Jan. 3, 2006
What's your life like right now?
It's been a strange few months. Uh the tour, I'm seeing how that went, that was a bit up and down itself.
Then I had a few days to celebrate and then, obviously the doping story came out and that was a … that was one of the low points of my life, I can say.
I was caught completely off guard and I guess if you were watching you saw it probably in some of my statements, I just didn’t know what to do and I said a lot of things about what I had done the days before, and a lot of things were … misconstrued as excuses for what happened when all I was trying to do was take some attention away from my friends and family who were being harassed by the media and I thought you know I'll make some statements whatever they are doesn’t matter at least I'll be talking and then they’ll leave everyone else alone.
That may've been a mistake. But, again I can't go back and even if I could I don't know exactly what the best thing to do would be.
Not saying anything would've made me look guilty so was basically a no-win situation there. So since then it's been focused on … getting the case together and finding some real experts that understand uh the tests and the science behind the tests because that part … I'll never be able to explain that, it's not my thing.
I'm good at riding my bike and let somebody else figure that out.
Why weren't you more angry with the riders who pulled out of the Tour de France just before the start of the race last year? Some people wonder why yo weren't more angry that these guys had tarnished the Tour again.
Well I'll tell you what. I was angry. At, at the entire situation at both sides because now, looking back, things are pretty much the same, we still have a dilemma, clearly something happened.
Clearly somebody was doing something they shouldn’t have been doing. Now … excluding people from the tour based on unclear evidence … could’ve been, I think it could've been done in a more reasonable way, there was people who were excluded clearly didn’t, didn’t deserve it.
And there were some who may or may not be involved. I didn’t know and I still don't know because the information I was getting was from the press and from rumours and neither one of those, I didn’t think it was fair to say that … I don't know, I could’ve been more certain and said yeah get them out but the problem is I don't know who to kick out because… again we weren't provided any, any kind of real documents from the police in Spain.
And obviously we heard names and we heard rumours but, I just wanted to be careful because I've seen people accused of things before in … then later you find out they didn't do it and I thought, knowing, being in that position myself… knowing that the tour is the biggest race in the world and it's what you dreamed of you trained for all year, I could only imagine what would be like to be one of those guys who didn’t deserve to have the finger pointed at them.
That’s, that’s what was going through my head and yeah they gave me a little bit of a hard time about it but I think, and I stand by that, I think that was the right thing, I still don't know who to accuse so, I'll reserve getting angry until I know what's actually going on.
Floyd Landis insists the French laboratory "made some mistakes" when its results showed he had elevated levels of testosterone. (Associated Press)
Do you hope it comes out one way or the other?
Yeah. Somebody needs to be punished but look, there's evidence that something happened, right, so we need to figure out who it is.
What upsets me about the system and the way they did it now is that we are required to sign an agreement, when you sign a contract and this … before this even happened this, this ethical code that we, our so-called ethical code.
Scared me, because it … it … allows them to … more or less, suspend you on any amount of suspicion, for example even a rumour.
If somebody says, for example, "Floyd Landis took drugs," with absolutely no evidence and no even connection to me, they can say "okay, well, Floyd you're not allowed to race until you can prove to us you didn’t use drugs."
Now … I, where I come from that doesn’t seem quite right. It seems … like the, in principle it is right because we're trying to keep people out if they're cheating, correct.
But it's so vaguely worded that it's too easily abused. And I think that’s what happened in the case of the Puerto.
I don't think they had the intentions when they made this … this ethical code, I think they had the right idea.
And … I was skeptical from the beginning, as I said, that it could be misused and apparently … for some of the guys it was misused and for the others who are guilty it wasn’t but again we don't have any idea who it was and I don't know why they waited until absolutely the last minute to give the information to the to the teams, it seems strange to me that they waited till the day before the Tour.
To do that, that part I don't understand.
How much do you think all of that on the eve of the Tour hurt the sport?
You know I would say that didn’t do any damage to the sport. The sport has had doping problems in the past.
And, the people who are fans now understand that and they take it as part of the show, whenever somebody gets caught, they're punished and the fans accept that as that’s the system, right.
What I do think will damage the sport is when or if, all of them are let off now. And nobody's implicated in this thing and it just goes away, that I think will be the most damaging thing that has ever happened.
Because then clearly, I don't think anybody will deny that somebody was doing something.
And if nothing comes of that I don't know how you could possibly spin that as a good thing.
But on the other hand, I don't know who to point my finger at so, I, I will say I'm glad I'm not the guy trying to figure that out because that is a complicated situation and … I'm worried for that.
How and when did you hear about the positive test?
The following day after the Tour, we drove to a couple teammates and we drove to Holland to do some posters (unclear) more just a … a demonstration, a race just for fun kind of for promotional thing.
Nobody really is in the mood to race, I can assure you. So I went to those and we did one on Tuesday night, and then I was scheduled to do another one on Wednesday night.
And in the morning the team manager was there with me, his name's John Lalond he was the guy in the car you see him a few times on television probably.
He got a call from the people uh back at the office in Switzerland and said they'd received a fax from, from UCI that there'd been a positive test result from me.
Uh for some reason didn’t ask them any details he just called me down in his room said look we got a problem there's been a positive test I don't know what stage I don't know what it was for anything so immediately I … I felt like … I can't even put into words how I felt.
Because I've seen things like this go on before whether they're true or not whether the A sample's right and the B sample's wrong doesn’t matter they all get to be the same it's a giant disaster.
And … so I said, "okay we gotta get out of this hotel," because the press knew I was there they're gonna come for some things for the evening for the race and … at that point I didn’t know if they knew but I assumed they'd figure it out soon enough so we got out of there, my wife was there with me, we left with John and we drove back to Paris.
We met with some of the lawyers from the teams and tried to figure out what to do.
But as far as I felt I can't I can't possibly put into words how I felt. I basically … deleted the race from my mind, I haven’t thought about that since, all I think about is trying to solve this problem that’s been created.
And I feel really sad about that, I hope one day I can watch the race and I can enjoy it again
Controversy has kept Landis from reminiscing about the 2006 Tour de France. (Alessandro Trovati/Associated Press)
So you haven't watched it since?
No. Don't, at this point, have any desire to.
In that first news conference after the test results were announced, were there things you said you wish you hadn't said that day?
No, there's things that I said that I wish had been kept in the context of what they were. What happened was I did a press … a telephone call with a bunch of people from the press and I tried to explain to them everything that I did the day before.
The same logic used with the question. And I thought "I'll just tell them everything I did, I doubt that there's any explanation in there but at least then look I'm doing something. I'm telling them a story they can write whatever they want at least I'll tell them everything I did."
Well, turns out they took that as 35 different reasons why Floyd thinks he had high testosterone which, none of the above is actually accurate, I didn’t have high testosterone and none of them were meant to be actual reasons for why the test was the way it was for, for all I knew the … the test didn’t even exist, I had no evidence of anything.
I probably would word things in a different way if I could do it again but then … don't have that choice now.
One of the things you did, I think, say that day was something like "I wouldn't hold it against somebody if they didn't believe me."
That’s actually true and I got a lot of grief for that but I, I stand by that, even now I stand by that.
Because I understand the context of bicycle racing and things that have happened in the past.
And … I've, I don't live in a vacuum, I read the news and I understand the culture and the things going on in every sport right now.
And … this is why I was so … I think I was so overwhelmed by everything because I had these thoughts in the back of my mind as … looking at it from somebody from the outside.
I absolutely would assume that I was guilty. What, what more … they didn’t, you don't need to be provided evidence if the … if the president of the UCI is saying I'm guilty he seems like a respectable, you know, guy who wouldn’t have a reason to say that unless it was true.
So, yeah, I, I think I still say that I don't hold it against people if they don't believe me. The best I can hope for now … is I put out everything I've received against me, on my website. I put a PowerPoint there to try to explain some of the arguments but what I did do is give them everything so people can make a judgment for themselves.
I'm gonna do my best to try to change the opinions of people that made up their mind. But … like I said I understand the context of society right now and the things going on before this.
And it wouldn’t surprise me if people just jumped to conclusions, that’s what I was trying to say.
Were you doping at the Tour de France?
As you've said, with the outside world's perception of the sport, you're not only at the centre of the biggest drug scandal in the history of cycling, it's the biggest ever in any sport. How much personal responsibility do you take for that?
I, I don't feel any responsibility for it happening to me. But I do feel like I need to do something about … the perception of the system and the way it works now.
Right now there is a dilemma because … there's an anti-doping system set up which is completely removed from the sport.
Meaning it has no, no … financial or other interest in the sport succeeding. Now … in the interest of objectivity that’s the best system.
However … when … the objective of that organization is not clear in their own minds, when they think it's a competition to catch as many people as possible to demonstrate to the world that they're actually doing something … then the point gets lost.
The dilemma is that the other option is that it be a, a system connected to the interest of the sport in which case you could only possibly hope for corruption, there's no other way around it.
So I don't have an answer for that. All I can do is point out that … the system, the way it is now, is biased against the athletes.
And that there is no oversight on the people doing the testing. And the people doing the testing are left to, to be the moral judges of what they do and … if it was a perfect world we could trust them to honestly monitor their own labs to enforce their own rules.
And to do the best they could … being a reasonable guy I understand that in any kind of legal system any kind of judicial system innocent people sometimes get punished, that’s how it works.
But in the system we have now with vaguely written rules applying to science um we have a system of labs which are open to interpret things however they see fit and then uh an athlete is … put in a position where they're not only not allowed to argue the science they can't even possibly interpret the science because the rules are, are written in an ambiguous way.
And that is the part that needs to change.
How did you feel about the system before this happened to you?
I have never trusted them. I never trusted them because of the statements they make.
I've never trusted them because they’ve always had an adversarial relationship towards the athletes in, in specifically speaking towards cycling and towards track and field.
Which in my opinion are targeted because they are big enough to get an actual reaction from the public and from the media.
There would be no point in causing a, a doping scandal in most of the Olympic sports because nobody would notice.
Cycling is the ideal one because it's not quite big enough to have the money to defend itself.
And it's big enough that it makes a scene
I will tell you that based on the things that I've heard the people from the doping agencies say I don't think that they understand what their actual job is.
It seems to me that they see it as a competition themselves. There are a lot of athletes that were unsuccessful.
And I think they feel like they were cheated and now they wanna take down everybody to … to teach the whole world a lesson.
But everybody can't be innocent, right?
Of course not, I said that from the beginning. And I also did point out that I understand the dilemma of, of making a system where every single innocent person is … freed and every single guilty person is convicted that never works that way ever.
I just … and obviously this is biased because it's directed at me so I'm gonna say my opinion, I think it's slanted towards catching everybody and taking as many innocent people along the way. Even if it's just collateral damage, that’s fine for them.
And that, in my opinion, is unacceptable. There must be a compromise somewhere.
In the aftermath of the positive test, who did you turn to for advice? Who'd you talk to?
Not a lot of people, the only person that really could relate was Lance (Armstrong), and he called me in the beginning, after a couple of my press conferences and told me to shut up basically.
So I listened. No, what he said was, "listen you can't win. No matter what you say now it's not gonna come out the way you want it to come out so just don't talk."
And … in the weeks after, I'd speak with him probably once a week because he's been through the same kind of accusations and he's one person that actually can relate to the exact same thing.
Otherwise, you know, I've lawyers trying to help and I've experts trying to deal with the science part but as far as my personal experience is concerned there's not a lot of people that can, can relate.
Because I … went from … being relatively unknown to being … known for something negative. I never really even got used to dealing with the cameras in a positive way.
And that part was, part of my … reasons for making so many mistakes in the beginning, I just wasn’t used to the way that to, to the way you should deal with the press to get your point across, not to try to change the story, but to say it in a clear way that's understandable.
And … I don't know, hopefully I'm learning. You'll have to let me know after you edit this.
(WADA chief) Dick Pound has said, essentially, if you admitted to doping and exposed the culture of doping, you'd almost be a greater hero to sports than by winning the Tour de France. How do you respond to that?
If he's insinuating that … admitting to something I didn’t do would make me a hero, then that confuses me.
If he … if he assumes I'm guilty, then that goes along with the comments I made earlier about the position of the people in power and what their actual job is.
They make a lot of contradictory statements, they say things like that on one hand and then when the science comes out and we publish papers they say things like you can't argue with the science.
Well, if you can't argue with the science then there's no point in having an appeals process. And it turns out that not only can you not argue with the science, you can't even understand the science because it's written in some ambiguous way that doesn’t even make any sense.
Obviously Dick Pound has his opinion I mean, that’s not the first time he's made those clear.
He's entitled to his opinion, also I find it highly … unlikely that an organization which was looking for respect would appreciate their leader saying things like that in public, but then it's up to them. I don't know who decides who runs what, but so be it.
Lance Armstrong's prickly personality has made him a target, says Landis. (Getty Images)
The fact is, they're still asking questions about Lance Armstrong. Why do you think there are still people doubting his achievement?
Look, Lance didn’t do himself any favours by being … you know … a little bit less than nice to people at times.
No, look he knows it, he's not the nicest guy but you have to give him the benefit of the doubt on a couple things, number one … he's not just a bicycle racer anymore, he's a he's a public figure of the highest order.
Everybody knows who he is and everybody wants his time and everybody has a different reason for wanting. He can't sort through which ones really wanna be his friends or not so he just ends up not being nice to the majority of people. I mean, he can't, he doesn’t have time to.
So, for that reason he didn’t make any friends with the press, number one. And … number two you don't make any friends in a bicycle race when you're always winning.
So pretty much everyone around him disliked him for one reason or another.
I think it would've gone a long way if he'd have tried to be a little bit nicer at times but then, that’s him, I think, I respect him for what he is. I had my differences with him at times and I was friends with him at times and … I, I have plenty of respect for Lance.
But I think that he is judged … harsher on every single angle and by every single piece of evidence just because they dislike his personality, that’s what I think.
How would you explain why you had a positive test for testosterone?
What's gonna happen is we have … assembled a team of experts now, and the lawyers but I think in this case the experts on the on the testing procedure are the more important part of this.
It turns out that … by the criteria of most of the labs … apart from all the mistakes that were made in the test apart from the fact that the test wasn’t done right … most of the UCI labs used a criteria in which this test would not be called a positive in the first place.
The French lab uses an interpretation of the WADA rule which is written in an ambiguous way.
That leaves it open to a very, very high margin of error, right. And … I'm not exactly sure how WADA's gonna explain that they allow different labs to use different … different thresholds for so-called substances. WADA's main reason for existence is to create a system of labs, 30 or so labs that they have now.
Which all use the same … criteria. Well they’ve been a resounding failure in that area. This test would've been a negative test if every lab we could find except for the French lab.
So that’s argument number one, and I think that’s the best one that people understand, never was a positive test.
Argument number two is that they're, the test wasn’t done in a, in a proper way for, again, according to WADA's own rules.
And that needs … a much longer explanation which I can't explain. But what I think people need to get clearly understood is that it was not a positive test in the first place.
It was advertised as …
What showed up in your sample?
Nothing. Unfortunately it's 370 pages and if you don't know what you're looking at it looks like it must be something real because it's complicated.
Turns out that … the … TD ratio which was announced to the world as 11 to 1 was measured multiple times, I would, if I remember correctly, 7 or 8 times, all ranging from 2 to 11.
Now a major problem in science is … is the repeatability of a test, if you can't do it and repeat it, what value does it have.
If it's negative one time, positive another, why do you decide to go with the highest number? What's … dictating that is more likely to be right than the lowest number?
That’s the first question we need to have answered. As far as the isotope test goes it doesn’t, doesn’t qualify as a positive test.
Cycle of denial: CBC's Tom Harrington examines the evidence against Floyd Landis
Watch the documentary: The National's investigation into the dirty world of cycling. (23:10 minutes)
One on One with Landis: Excerpts from CBC News's exclusive interview with the Tour de France's tainted champion
- Doctor expands defence of Landis, says there was no positive test
- Nov. 17, 2006
- Landis insists French lab made crucial errors in his positive doping test
- Nov. 12, 2006
- Pereiro to be named Tour winner if Landis loses appeal
- Oct. 27, 2006
- Lance Armstrong blasts new book
- Oct. 18, 2006
- Landis takes his doping defence to the Internet
- Oct. 11, 2006
- Landis maintains his innocence
- Aug. 11, 2006
- Landis fails 2nd drug test
- Aug. 5, 2006
- Top 10: Doping exuses
- I'm innocent: Tour champ Landis
- July 28, 2006
- Top 10: Drug scandals
- World cycling chief vows crusade
- July 28, 2006
- Positive drug test 'serious blow' to cycling: Pound
- July 27, 2006
- Test result clouds Tour de France win
- July 27, 2006
- Unnamed rider tested positive at Tour de France
- July 26, 2006
- Newsmaker: Floyd Landis
- July 24, 2006
- Landis captures Tour de France
- July 23, 2006
- Exonerated Lance Armstrong wants Dick Pound fired from WADA
- June 20, 2006
- Lance Armstrong isn't fretting doping probe
- Jan. 21, 2006
- Lance Armstrong facing drug probe
- Jan. 21, 2006
- Lance Armstrong denies doping allegations
- Aug. 23, 2005
- Armstrong captures 7th straight Tour de France
- July 23, 2005
- Armstrong hurt by cycling legend LeMond's comments
- Aug. 1, 2005
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