Belief Systems

The Service Course has had a few inquiries on how it's managed to not weigh in on last week’s Floyd Landis confessusations. Well, the fact is, between the time I heard and the time I could even think about writing anything – a period of roughly 45 minutes – everything about the whole mess had already been written six or seven times over. Sure, it was written with widely varying degrees of sanity, logic, giddiness, mouth-frothing, and spelling acumen, but it was written nonetheless, and I didn’t really have much to add to the conversation. We all read the same articles, the same denials, and the same trail of emails, didn't we? There just wasn't that much more information out there.

Not adding to the noise was one motivation for keeping silent, but I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that there was another reason as well: when it comes to anything Lance Armstrong-related, people are fucking nuts. I mean, have you seen the things people write on other sites and in comments sections about this thing? I can actual feel the veins on their foreheads throbbing. So, if I were looking to lead a nice, quiet life, free from people calling me names, questioning my manhood, and threatening my dog, I’d apparently be better off writing that Jesus didn’t exist than daring to wonder aloud whether Lance Armstrong might have, once upon a time, taken a little taste of the forbidden fruit.

I don’t cover the Jesus beat, though --- I write about professional cycling, so I guess I have to take what I’m handed. But this Landis/Armstrong quagmire does feel a whole lot like a religious issue sometimes, in that there’s very little I or anyone else can write that will change what each individual already believes to be true, and in that the more anyone tries to sway people's beliefs, the more pissed off those people are going to get. And, just like religion, I’m not sure I really want to change anyone’s mind, anyway. But since people keep asking me whether I "believe Landis," I’ll risk my fictional dog’s well-being and tell you what I believe:

  • I believe that people can lie about something at one point in time and tell the truth about it at some other point. I believe that when they do, the lie usually comes first and the truth second.

  • I believe that even if hatred, spite, or revenge is the motive, truth can still be the result.

  • I believe, however, that “truth” and “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” aren’t necessarily synonymous. That’s why they ask you about each of them individually in the court oath. Notably, there’s no oath required to send an email.

  • I believe that some people are getting confused about whether they’re shocked about what Landis is saying, or shocked that he’s saying it.

  • I believe that where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. Or at least some burning embers. And there’s been an awful lot of smoke for an awful long time. And I can't believe I just used the "where there's smoke there's fire" cliche.

  • I believe that, if Landis’s list were one notable name shorter, people would be a lot slower to dismiss his accusations.

  • I believe that, yeah, Landis looks and sounds a little crazy sometimes. While we’re on the subject, I think his looks have something to do with how people perceive him. Think about it – who would “Sorry about the hookers and blow” sound less creepy coming from: Floyd Landis, or Tom Boonen?

  • I believe that it's shocking how many adults think that sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes, and shouting “liar, liar, liar, liar…” is a valuable contribution to discourse or a nuanced assessment of the situation.

  • I believe it’s extremely telling that all former USPS rider and current Garmin DS Jonathan Vaughters had to say about the Landis accusations was that Garmin’s Dave Zabriskie was clean now, and that’s what really mattered. I believe it's huge that that organization is supporting its riders' full cooperation with any investigation -- because I assume that promise of continued employment extends to Vaughters himself as well as other former USPS riders Zabriskie and DS Matt White.

  • I believe that Mike Barry’s next book might be titled “Under the Postal Bus.”

  • I believe the non-rider names mentioned are far more important than the rider names.

  • I believe that people will now be much less interested in Allen Lim’s cooling vests and rice cakes, and much more interested in any other work he might have done at Garmin.

  • I believe Armstrong’s sponsors will stand by him, both because they will have shot themselves in the foot if they abandon him and this all turns out to be baseless, and because he owns a piece of most of them.

  • I believe that the wording of one of the initial headlines – “Landis Confesses, Implicates Lance” – tells us a lot of what we need to know about how the balance was stacked at the outset (not that we didn’t already know). One rider is just a last name, like most athletes. The other’s our best bud, someone we call by their first name, even if it’s in a news headline in the country’s leading sports publication. At least Landis isn’t referred to by three names yet, because I believe that’s never a good thing.

  • I believe that nobody is “too big to fail.” I’ve heard it said that, for better or worse, Landis should shut his trap because of the affect it could have on good work done by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. While that sort of impact may be unfortunate, if the LAF were to go down because it’s proved that Armstrong used bucketloads of dope, I’ll have a hard time finding that to be Floyd Landis’s fault. And given the current tide of public opinion, I wouldn’t worry too much about it, anyway.

  • I believe it doesn’t matter a bit what we all think Landis should or shouldn’t say, because this isn’t a referendum. While it’s very true that he’s heaped much of this ill-will on himself, it’s equally true that he’s lost his job, his wife, his house, his best friend, his money, and his credibility to all of this, so if he’s not considering all possible negative consequences his actions might have for others, I can’t say I blame him.

  • I believe that Landis’s best shot at credibility on this issue is for other USPS veterans to corroborate his claims, if those claims are true. Unfortunately, I also believe that those in the most likely position to do so – Tyler Hamilton, Roberto Heras, and Manuel Beltran – would be met with the same distrust Landis has, and not without good reason. I also believe that, should riders like Frankie Andreau, or Marty Jemison, or Cedric Vasseur, or Pascal Derame, or Benjamin Noval speak out, they’ll be dismissed with the standard “disgruntled employee” label. Very few people seem to have left that team with a smile on their faces.

  • I believe that no matter how many people were to corroborate Landis’s story, the fingers-in-the-ears crowd will never hear it.

  • I believe that, if the fingers-in-the-ears would unplug long enough to listen to anyone’s potential corroboration, it would be George Hincapie’s. Maybe Ekimov’s. But mostly Hincapie’s.

  • I believe that, like Festina soigneur Willy Voet, Bruyneel’s errand boy “Duff” will be the most likely person to spend actual time in the clink for all of this.

  • I believe that the Fed being involved via BALCO buster Jeff Novitzky is the only hope of anything getting done if the charges have merit. If Landis’ accusations prove legitimate, Armstrong going down on fraud charges would be cycling’s equivalent of nabbing Al Capone on tax evasion, but it’s abundantly clear that cycling’s authorities won’t be doing anything of substance. In a letter to one of those accused, John Lelangue, the UCI has already basically said, “we’re investigating, because we have to look like we’re investigating, but it’s all bullshit, so don’t worry too much about it.” Though I should add that the UCI has already diligently investigated itself and found itself innocent, they have taken the noble step of requesting that national federations investigate everyone else. Of course, they’re careful to reiterate in that request that they still think it’s all bullshit.

  • I believe that, for a long time, there’s been a feeling that someone who really loves cycling would come in and be the one to clean the whole mess up. I believe that’s wrong. I believe that to clean it up, it’s going to take someone who doesn’t give a shit about cycling. (See above.)

  • I believe that the Fed's success in prosecuting fraud based on USPS funds going to buy dope could depend on what their definition of “paid for” is. If there was indeed doping going on and you take the strictest interpretation, I think they'll have a tough time showing USPS sponsorship money was specifically used for dope purchases. I’d imagine sponsorship money from multiple sources is deposited in a central account, then farmed out for various purposes, so I doubt there are terribly many receipts that trace team funds from a specific sponsor source all the way through to end purchases. And I really doubt that illicit dope purchases are accounted for in that way (though Dr. Fuentes was apparently pretty meticulous in invoicing Tyler Hamilton). So even if the team was buying dope with mailman money, I’m not sure you could prove it any more than you could prove that AMD funds were specifically used to buy a new muffler for the team bus. And that’s all assuming the dope and gear was paid for by the team in some manner, and not by the riders with their own money and by their own devices. But, if you take a broader definition of “paid for” – like “USPS paid Tailwind, and Tailwind paid for dope,” or “USPS paid Tailwind, Tailwind paid riders, and riders paid for dope,” then the Fed might get somewhere. Also, while the Fed's prosecution angle seems to be primarily financial in nature and the Postal team was financially located in the United States, I do wonder if they'll run into jurisdictional issues considering how much of what’s being discussed didn’t occur on U.S. soil.

  • I believe that Fred Rodriguez (Saturn-Mapei-Lotto-Rock Racing) may be the only major American Euro-pro of the Armstrong Tour de France era who isn’t somehow connected to U.S. Postal, Bruyneel, Lim, or some other party named in Landis’s emails. I suppose he rode for the national team while Ochowicz was connected to USAC, but that’s a few degrees farther removed than everyone else. I’m open to contradictions or other suggestions if you have them.

  • I believe that the emails Armstrong released from Landis and Brent Kay aren’t particularly illuminating one way or the other, but they do reveal that Dr. Kay is a very strange man with some pretty delusional takes on what the future might have held for Landis. Winning the Vuelta? With RadioShack? Singing a round of Kumbaya with Lemond and Armstrong? Really?

  • I believe that, if you’ve read Breaking the Chain about the 1998 Festina scandal, or Matt Rendell’s excellent Death of Marco Pantani, or any of the various books and articles detailing doping practices in professional cycling, none of what Landis has alleged so far is particularly outlandish. If anything, what’s been revealed so far strikes me as a pretty light regimen.

  • I believe you should read Adam Myerson’s take on the whole mess, because I believe he gets lot of things right.

  • I believe that, while the unraveling of the Landis accusations will provide me with somewhat guilty entertainment, I’ll have a hard time really caring too much how it turns out. There are negatives and positives either way, and it will be a valuable investigation from a precedent-setting perspective, but in the most immediate sense, most of these guys are old anyway, so if they all end up tossed we’re really only speeding up the timeline by a couple of years. I’m neither a doping apologist nor a doping inquisitor, though, so I’m pretty sure either end of the spectrum has stronger feelings on the outcome than I do.

  • I believe that, whatever the outcome, the cycling world will not come crashing down. It can be hard to tell sometimes, particularly in this country, but I do still believe that no man is bigger than the sport. And if Landis is proved a liar (again), or if Armstrong and the others he’s named are proven to be frauds, the show will go on.

  • I believe that at some point, one of those crazy guys on the streetcorner holding the sign that reads “THE END IS NEAR” is going to turn out to be right. Because at a certain point it seems sort of inevitable, doesn’t it?