What a May 20, 2010 for Lance Armstrong: Accused by former teammate Floyd Landis of doping methodically, repeatedly and instructively over the years, Armstrong issued a combative “it’s our word against his” denial and subsequently crashed out of the Amgen Tour of California.
Assuming the dates and places identified in the Landis email have some veracity, Armstrong had to be in a world of hurt even before his tumble, which left him with stitches around his eye and elbow but no serious injury. He has said he will be back on the bike as soon as possible. But the Landis d-bomb, and Lance’s own sporadic training regimen this spring so far, have to cast some doubt over his enthusiasm and readiness for the upcoming 2010 Tour de France.
To deny each specific allegation — if he ever chooses to do so — would leave Amstrong open not only to growing public skepticism but to legal vulnerability, especially if witnesses identified by Landis are called to testify or otherwise corroborate Landis’ version of events.
As soon as this case enters any kind of official investigative status, whether by federal authorities, cycling governance or in a personal lawsuit, something has to give.
The question is whether it ever will.
Landis himself could be subject to prosecution based on potential perjury, as DrunkCyclist points out. The intriguing aspect to a perjury trial would be proving that what Landis said on the stand in 2007 was a lie, which would, conversely, confirm that he’s now telling the truth.
Any prosecution would presumably involve depositions, subpoenaes and documentation that would put riders and others named in the Landis email in the position of testifying under oath — forcing them to admit or deny their own culpability for the legal record. And that, again, could prove sticky — if Landis’ allegations have merit.
As we’ve suspected, Lance’s wife and UCI officialdom could prove key here. One Landis allegation that has gotten surprisingly little media play so far is that the then-president of the UCI — cycling’s governing body — allegedly took a bribe from Armstrong and his manager, Johan Bruyneel, in 2002 to cover up a positive test for EPO. Bribery is a pretty serious charge. One would think that Lance, Johan and the UCI official, Hein Verbruggen, would champ at the bit to go to court over at the very least libel — if what Landis is alleging is actually untrue.
But what if no one presses charges? It’s possible the whole mess could be left to twist in the wind, eventually victim to the public’s fading memory and cycling’s position as a marginal sport in mainstream news. Landis has said he is going to tell his whole story, possibly a reference to a book, but even that could fall by the wayside if cycling officialdom and federal authorities show little interest in pursuing the case.
Another possibility would be for The New York Times or similar news organization with resources and clout to do its own investigation. But there are reasons that hasn’t happened so far, despite repeated allegations against Armstrong over the past decade, and those reasons have not changed.
As we’ve suggested previously, the whole mess could be dispensed with if Lance simply made a clean breast of it and said, “I did it because everyone else did it, and to compete on a level playing field I had to. I’m sorry, but that’s the way things were. I’m clean now, intend to stay clean, and hope my admission will enable others to take similar action and permit the sport of cycling to move forward with a clean slate.”
To be clear, we’re suggesting this course only if Lance actually doped. If he didn’t, he should stick to his story. Or actually not just stick to his story: One would think he would file a defamation suit against Landis.
But if Floyd’s accusations are correct, the sooner Lance steps up, the better. Far from tainting him, it would make him more of a hero over time — because his example would finally allow the grand sport of professional cycling to move into a post-doping era.