Swiss cycling world considers Landis’ fallout
As one cheat commenting on another, disgraced Swiss cyclist Thomas Frei understands why American Floyd Landis wanted to confess, but his accusing of others is “sad”.
Landis has admitted that he doped most of his career, including before winning the 2006 Tour de France, and has alleged that others like Lance Armstrong were accomplices. If true, some say he should have handled it quietly.
When Frei tested positive for the endurance-boosting drug EPO in April, he admitted it and was let go from his Swiss-American pro-cycling team BMC, which thanked him for his confession.
In contrast, Landis, 34, reportedly spent around $2 million (SFr2.3 million) fighting the test results in court, raised money among fans to try to clear his name and wrote a book called “Positively False” explaining in detail how he was innocent – by his own admission now all a lie.
“I think he’s made the situation worse for himself,” Frei told swissinfo.ch.
“For me, I said, ‘Yes, I did it. It was my mistake’. Period. Landis was different. Why should I name others? In the end everyone needs to decide what they want to do.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) on Friday said it would look into Landis’ allegations that he and others like Lance Armstrong had worked to beat doping controls with blood transfusions.
“He has to bring proof that this is true,” International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge told The Associated Press. “These are accusations that need to be corroborated by proof.”
Landis has said he has journal entries and is cooperating with American investigators. He could be facing libel and slander lawsuits if the allegations he’s made prove to be baseless.
Meanwhile, Swiss entrepreneur Andy Rihs has distanced himself from his former rider. Rihs worked with Landis in 2006 when he won the 2006 Tour de France riding for team Phonak on BMC bikes (both owned by Rihs). Landis was stripped of his title after testing positive for synthetic testosterone.
“Neither I nor the management of the team knew that Floyd Landis was doped,” Rihs said in a statement, adding that the whole affair is probably Landis’ “last tragic attempt to gain public recognition”.
“His present statements according to which I was informed are lies,” Rihs said. He did not return a call seeking further comment.
Armstrong has also denied the accusations, reportedly saying Landis has attempted to blackmail the seven-time Tour de France winner in the past. “Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago,” Armstrong said.
United States national road champion George Hincapie, who now races for Rihs’ BMC and has also been implicated, said he was “really disappointed to hear these accusations”, which he also denied.
Nothing to lose
Ian Blackshaw is a member of the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport and is an international sports lawyer. He argues that cases like Landis’ should be handled within “the family of sport” and that Landis’ “gun-blazing” is doing more harm than good.
“This is one of the problems in doping cases,” Blackshaw told swissinfo.ch. “Doping issues are supposed to be kept confidential.”
He says cycling’s governing body, the International Cycling Federation (UCI), may mount an investigation if Landis does have proof. The American could still suffer fines and other punishment for breaching UCI rules on keeping doping matters quiet.
“He should have gone to the UCI and said, ‘Look, I have reason to believe that there are some problems here and you ought to investigate’,” Blackshaw said.
“It’s a pity that it’s out in the public domain. If there was going to be an action taken, then it would have come out and people would know what was going on. There wouldn’t be all these wild accusations, allegations and speculations. It’s a sad case.”
Frei said he agrees the case is sad and strange but that it’s also “normal” for affected cyclists to try to blame others. He said he doesn’t know Landis personally, but that no matter how ugly the situation becomes, Landis is probably sleeping better.
“If he’d received another good contract with another good team, then he would never have said anything,” Frei said, alluding to Landis’ struggle to find an elite squad to race with since being stripped of his title.
“He is no longer the cyclist but a human who has nothing to lose. He’s saying, ‘I’m out of the system, I have no goals any more, I want to have a clear conscience’. And I believe that. Because when you admit it, it’s a relief.”
Tim Neville, swissinfo.ch
On July 27 it was announced that a test on Landis after Stage 17 on July 20 showed an “unusually high” level of testosterone in his urine.
On August 1 reports said synthetic testosterone had been found, throwing doubts on his claims that it was a natural occurrence.
In March 2006 Swiss Phonak rider Sascha Urweider was suspended following a positive test for high levels of testosterone.
In 2004 three Phonak riders were all found guilty of doping violations and fired: Tyler Hamilton and Santiago Perez (blood doping) and Oscar Camenzind (EPO).
Andy Rihs is chairman of the board of Sonova Holding. The hearing healthcare firm, which had sales of SFr1 billion ($945 million) in 2007, was formerly known as Phonak before changing its name in 2007.
An avid cyclist, Rihs directed Phonak to sponsor a professional cycling team in the Tour de France before the team was dissolved following a suspension on doping charges.
Rihs is also owner of BMC, a bicycle manufacturing company started by American Bob Bigelow in 1986 as a part of the Raleigh brand. Rihs took the company over in 2001.
The Tour de France is the biggest cycling race in the world.
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