Saturday, November 15, 2008

Armstrong and Landis are making a comeback!

I have been extremely reticent of professional cycling ever since the 2006 Tour de France where many top cyclists (Ullrich, Basso, Vino) were prevented from racing because of doping allegations and where ultimately the 2006 winner Floyd Landis was stripped of his title because of his so called abnormal ratio of T/E. Not because I believe that the cyclists were doping - but because of the way that the UCI and USADA has handled the situation. As a former competitive mountain bike racer, USA official, and attorney, I find the UCI's inaction and the USADA system reprehensible. Athletes have absolutely no legal recourse or avenue to present a defense or explanation for abnormalities. They are simply suspended from racing resulting in permanent damage to their reputation as well as their racing careers. These organizations go after cyclists as if they were pursuing a Salem witch trial. Worse, the UCI is a "union" tasked with promoting and regulating as well as advocating for cyclists. All of these scandals and allegations have only hurt the sport. I'm a perfect example. I'm so put off by the corruption and incompetence that I don't even follow road racing anymore.

In Landis' case, he was suspended and stripped of his title when his test revealed a higher ratio of T/E even though there were several procedural errors in the lab where the test was performed which in my opinion clearly demonstrates that his test was tainted. The lab technician even knew that she was testing his sample. So much for anonymous testing! He was notified that he tested "positive" (testosterone) but was not given an explanation of the (natural not synthetic) levels or even allowed to defend himself at all. Landis continued to claim his innocence, establishing a team of experts who poured over his case and discovered hundreds of errors in the system. He appealed but to no avail. Unfortunately no one has ever won a case against the USADA. Although his racing career has been put on hold and he has spent all of his winnings and time on his case, his suspension ends in January 2009 and he is planning to race and possibly make a comeback on the Tour.

He's not alone. Lance Armstrong is also making a comeback to cycling and possibly to the Tour. As you are probably aware, Armstrong has also been accused of doping by the media and his colleagues because of his athletic prowess even though he has never had a positive test. In Landis' book, Positively False, Landis claimed that he was offered a "deal" by USADA if he agreed to help reel in a bigger fish (Armstrong) which he flat refused. In the years that they won their tours, Armstrong and Landis trained ridiculously hard, had the best teams and technology. These are the components of a successful tour. Yet, critics find it impossible. Probably because of their Herculean efforts on days following a bad stage. Bad days happen. Herculean efforts happen despite those bad days.

For the first time in 2 years, I am excited about the upcoming tour especially if Landis and Armstrong compete. I can't wait to witness the battle of these two cycling giants (once teammates) and the frenzy that will surround the Tour i.e. doping allegations, ramped up testing, training, etc. Already, these two are racing in local mountain bike races. Armstrong won the Rocky Hill Ranch race in Smithville, Texas and Landis placed 2nd in the Leadville 100 after crashing in the first hour and despite his hip replacement.

If you would like to learn more about Landis' case and how he won the Tour, check out his book Positively False (I checked it out at my local library). It's a great read and he outlines his case and the actions of the USADA. You will be shocked and amazed by what he has endured in training with an injured hip, the Tour win, the media frenzy and the drawn out legal process.