â†µLance Armstrong is beginning what he says is his final Tour de France today. It seems unlikely that this will be the final Tour de France marred by Floyd Landis' frank accusations about the state of cycling. â†µâ†µ
â†µIn a long, absorbing piece in the Wall Street Journal, Landis, who gave the newspaper extensive interviews in June, alleges that Armstrong and his teams conducted a sophisticated, meticulous doping program—selling high-tech bicycles from sponsor Trek to pay for it—and tells a few stories about Armstrong's personal conduct that paint the seven-time Tour winner in an unflattering light. â†µ
â†µIt's the doping that's the eye-catching news, but that's nothing new; Landis has been, depending on your perspective, either truth-telling or braying on that particular subject since May, and Armstrong's been dealing with accusations of foul play for more than a decade. The breadth and depth of Landis' account, though, is persuasive: He puts Armstrong at a raucous strip club party with cocaine involved in 2001, says Armstrong gave him testosterone patches in front of his ex-wife in 2002, and paints Armstrong as a willing ringleader in the U.S. Postal Service team's doping efforts. Landis also details his own doping, which began as a part of Armstrong's team and entailed tricks like getting packages of blood from a courier disguised as a fan at the end of stages when he devised his own doping program later in his career. â†µâ†µ
â†µIt's easy to dismiss and deny these claims as a discredited Landis vainly trying to keep his name in the news and drag a corrupt, shadowy sport to its knees. (Through his manager, Armstrong called Landis "a carton of sour milk" and "a person of zero credibility" today.) But Landis told the WSJ he began seeing a therapist recently, and found it liberating to tell the truth about his cycling days. And it takes a certain amount of trust to believe that Armstrong, the most dominant cyclist in an era ruled by dopers, accomplished all he did by dint of hard work and talent alone. â†µâ†µ
â†µPerhaps Landis has a monopoly on the truth. Perhaps Armstrong does. Most likely, the truth lies somewhere in between these two poles, and there is too much haze to know for certain where it is or whom to believe. There is no denying, however, that the narratives of cycling's tumultuous last decade are among the most compelling story lines in sport. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.