The emails sent by Landis to cycling and anti-doping officials in Europe and the US were not an attack on his former teammate Lance Armstrong but an account of Landis’ own doping. It is not uncommon for cyclists to admit their doping but generally they try to disconnect their actions from those around them, protecting teammates and team facilitators out of a sense of misguided loyalty.
Landis has given us the context in which he doped. He tells of the support and the expertise he claims he received from those around him. He offers us plenty of names. For three years, 2002-04, he rode for US Postal, the team owned by Tailwind Sports, which was then 50% owned by Armstrong.
Not for the first time, Armstrong turned his gun on the accuser. “I remind everyone that this is a man who wrote a book for profit and now has a completely different version.
The question is which version is to be believed? Is a man more credible when his story is told for profit or, in this case, for no material gain? Those whose careers depend on the credibility of cycling have been quick to denounce Landis. “I feel sorry for the guy because I don’t accept anything he says as true,” said Pat McQuaid, the president of UCI. McQuaid insults our intelligence when he says he doesn’t believe Landis’ admission of doping. Why would any rider say he doped for five years if he didn’t?
I stayed in touch with O’Reilly, Swart, the Andreus and Anderson long after the interviews ended. And one thing always puzzled me: why would good people make up vicious lies about Armstrong? The difference with the Landis emails is that he presented them as a challenge to cycling and anti-doping authorities: what are you going to do about this?
Long ago, cycling’s authorities decided it would not wash in public any linen belonging to Armstrong. The United States Anti-Doping Authority has taken a different line and appointed the federal investigator Jeff Novitzky to the case. Landis and Armstrong’s former wife are understood to be co-operating. The choice of Novitzky is significant because if his work in the infamous Balco case proved anything, it was that lying to federal investigators is not a good idea.
If Novitzky concludes that US Postal did run a doping programme, Armstrong and others could face charges. Through Tailwind Sports, the US Postal team was funded by taxpayers’ money. The penalties for misusing such funds are draconian.
The Landis emails may have been but the first chapter in a story destined to become far more interesting.