I was there to see him win the tour
It didn't last too long
Earlier today, Floyd Landis, the former winner of the 2006 Tour de France, lost his final chance to overturn the decision of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that stripped him of his Tour title nearly one year ago.
In cycling and most Olympic sports, a national body, USADA in this case, handles doping cases pertaining to any athlete licensed by that country. Even though Landis' violations occurred in France, he was disciplined here, by his national bodies. Because all Olympic sports are overseen by an international body, the International Olympic Committee, appeals that go beyond the national level come to an international court.
Landis' claim — that the samples of his blood were improperly tested in a French laboratory — was rejected by USADA, but he believed that he could still prove his point, so he appealed the case to the highest court in the world of sports, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The court dispatched a three-member panel to hear Landis' case in March, at the offices of a New York law firm, and they announced their findings on Monday.
The decision, that Landis' assertions were unfounded, solidifies Oscar Pereiro's place in the history books as the official winner of the 2006 race, although there will always be an asterisk next to his name, as fans and other competitors remember the way he inherited his Tour crown.
So what does any of this have to do with you and me?
I was in France in 2006 when Landis was on his way to winning the race. Staying in a fancy hotel in Istanbul (the dollar was stronger back then), I watched Landis nearly win the first stage of that year's race. A couple weeks later, I crowded into a bar in Rome to watch him collapse in the race's 16th stage, and then a day later, surge to launch himself back into contention. Days later, I cheered for him on the sport's most hallowed ground, Paris' Champs Elysees, to watch him finish the three-week race and receive the race winner's yellow jersey.
Three days after that, in an Internet café in Belgium, I read that Landis had tested positive for having an out-of-whack testosterone ratio, likely indicating a form of doping.
I wouldn't exactly say that my life immediately launched into a tailspin, or that I was forced to dive headlong into drugs and alcohol to console my grief, but I did lose a little bit of my interest in following my favorite sport. I know I wasn't the only one who had that reaction.
Landis made me and other fans question, as no one else had, whether what we'd been watching our heroes do out on the tarmac was real, or if it was false heroics, engineered victories created by chemistry and not hard work and sweat. I don't think anybody will ever look at the Tour de France the same way again, and for that, we can all thank Landis.Not to change the subject, but there are some good photos from this weekend. Check back tomorrow for a glimpse!