Dope on dope on dope …

Tyler-hamilton-lance-armstrongCoincidentally, the reports that Lance Armstrong is
mulling a confession for a career-long and systematic doping regimen that
helped him win the Tour de France seven times as well as an Olympic medal and
plenty of other races, comes just as I finished reading teammate Tyler
Hamilton’s
book chronicling those years.

Obviously, Armstrong’s admission is too little, too late.
But, with anything involving Armstrong one has to look for a Machiavellian plan
at work. What is the endgame for a guy who spent two decades attempting to
destroy any one who told the truth? It can’t be that he simply wants to race
triathlons or marathons again, could it? He can do that any time or anywhere.

Does he really need attention that badly?

An admission is a bit surprising because there are so
many obstacles for Armstrong to leap over. For instance, if he admits to doping
all those years, he’s wide open to an array of lawsuits. Over the years
Armstrong successfully sued or received settlements from entities that claimed
he doped. If it comes out that he actually did everything as reported by the
likes of Hamilton and Floyd Landis, there’s going to be a long line of folks
trying to get some money.

Armstrong also would be open to federal perjury charges
in Landis’ whistle-blower suit against the US Postal racing team. In other
words, in order to admit to doping, Armstrong would have to be reassured that
he would not lose all of his money nor spend time in jail.

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Finally coming clean

Lance_floyd NEW YORK — Let’s just get it out of the way at the top… Lance Armstrong is going down and he is going down hard. It’s not unreasonable to believe that jail time could be involved for the seven-time Tour de France champion when the government concludes its investigation.

See, the United States federal government does not like it when a person lies to them. It is quirky that way.

But the thing the government dislikes the most is when it doesn’t get a cut of what it believes it has coming. You know, it wants to wet its beak with a tiny bit of the proceeds as tribute for signing off on that whole Bill of Rights thing. Freedom isn’t free, as they say. It costs a mandated percentage of your yearly income unless you make so much money that you can pay an accountant to talk them down.

Think about it… when Michael Vick went to jail for nearly two years it wasn’t so much as for the dog fighting ring he was operating as it was because he didn’t pay a royalty. He served 21 months in prison for felony conspiracy in interstate commerce, which is a fancy way of saying he didn’t cut the government a slice.

What does this have to do with Lance Armstrong? Well, everything, of course. If the guy was riding for a team sponsored by the United States Postal Service, a government agency, and used the equipment supplied to him to sell for performance-enhancing drugs, well, that’s trouble. In fact, it was alleged last year by his former wing man, Floyd Landis, that Team USPS funded its drug habit by selling its equipment. This was realized, according to the accusations, when Landis wanted a training bike and couldn’t get one.

That training bike was injected as EPO.

Regardless, that’s not what this is all about. When word came out that Armstrong’s closest teammates, George Hincappie and Tyler Hamilton, testified for the federal grand jury it was pretty damning. It meant that the United States feels it had been defrauded.

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Could Floyd Landis be the modern day Joe Jackson?

Landis_river Apparently, if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, it does make a sound. It’s the same thing as in a bike race when a guy rides faster than everyone else only when he passes the finish line he gets a different type of award.

The difference is that it costs… everything.

So with that, Floyd Landis, one of the sports world’s greatest pariahs, ended his career as a professional bicycling racer. A native of the backwoods hinterlands of Lancaster County, approximately a hilly, 60 miles bike ride west of Philadelphia, Landis won the 2006 Tour de France only to be stripped of his title two days afterwards. Nearly five years after his greatest race, Landis was stripped of his title, his life savings, got a divorce, mourned the suicide of his father-in-law, lost teams, teammates and friends, and, on top of it all, had his career destroyed.

Landis’ victory lap turned into a book tour and benefit to raise cash for his legal defense of a failed doping test taken shortly after a seemingly heroic ride in Stage 17 of the Tour de France.

Yet after two years of racing sporadically for a handful of middling racing teams, Landis told ESPN’s Bonnie D. Ford that he had filed his papers with his former adversaries, the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and no longer has to submit to further drug testing. In other words, Landis will be treated like a U.S. citizen for a change.

According to Ford, Landis grew increasingly frustrated with re-carving a niche in the sport in which he devoted his life. He spent 2009 riding for the U.S.-based United Healthcare team before he was released from his contract, stating that he wished to race in the longer, European stage races which suit his strengths. Landis latched on with Rock Racing only to see the team fail to gain a pro racing license, before finding a spot with the Bahati Foundation Cycling Team with the hope of racing the Tour of California.

However, when Landis decided to reveal his sordid history with doping, and revealed the alleged dopers in his sport—including Lance Armstrong—he was without a team again.

“I’ve spent five years trying to get back to a place that I can never really go back to, and it’s causing more stress than is worth it," Landis told Ford. “There must be more to life than this.”

But does that eliminate Landis from more witch hunts where he is both the hunted and the hunter? Far from it. Landis’ allegations against Armstrong, his inner circle, cycling officials and race directors of the alleged systematic, drug-aided run of Tour de France victories, were toxic enough to draw an investigation from federal prosecutors. A U.S. Justice Department-backed grand jury in Los Angeles has subpoenaed several of Landis’ and Armstrong’s teammates and fellow riders.

Just to prove he wasn’t kidding around, Landis filed a “whistle-blower” lawsuit last September and has met with federal investigators and doping officials.

In other words, Landis may not be riding his bike in races any more, but he won’t be far from the spotlight. Since the investigation into the doping allegations comes from Landis’ and Armstrong’s days of riding with the U.S. Postal Service team, a government agency whose funds are considered public, could be deemed as fraud or conspiracy against the United States. Undoubtedly, there are many folks—especially Armstrong—who are anxiously awaiting the results of the grand jury.

About the suit, a spokesman for Armstrong told The Wall Street Journal:

“By his own admission, he is a serial liar, an epic cheater, and a swindler who raised and took almost a million dollars from his loyal fans based on his lies. What remains a complete mystery is why the government would devote a penny of the taxpayer’s money to help Floyd Landis further his vile, cheating ambitions. And all aimed directly at Lance Armstrong, a man who earned every victory and passed every test while working for cancer survivors all over the world.”

No, Landis did not respond with, “Takes one to know one.”

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Nothing has changed except for everything

Floyd_lance Nothing has changed. Up is not down, black is not white and there are no dogs sleeping with cats. The earth still spins on its axis and righteous indignation is still the rallying cry for losers.

The truth—a very mysterious and sordid concept these days—is still very plain. Today’s revelations notwithstanding, a cooked case is still crispy and charred just so.

But yes, I still believe that if Floyd Landis and his failed drug test from Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France were presented on the same standards of the rule of law, it would have been thrown out of court. I also believe that if Landis were a baseball player, a football player, a golfer or any other pro athlete outside of cycling, he would be on the field right now. Like anyone else in elite sports, Landis probably was not-guilty though he was never innocent.

Maybe this is where that righteous indignation line can be reinserted. After all, everybody gets screwed at one time or another. There’s no sense whining about it and I still do not care if Landis was cocktailing HgH with winstrol and deer urine all while freezing his rest-day blood in a hyperbaric chamber. The fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution still exists. We all own it, but not if you like to ride a bike, win races or have your blood tested at the Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage in Châtenay-Malabry. 

Those guys…

Then again, a lot of us look pretty stupid right now.

The above section is what hasn’t changed. The part that has changed is everything else. One of the most incredible days of the Tour de France and exciting sports day I have ever seen is more than just a little tainted. Oh sure, Landis still says he did not use the synthetic testosterone he tested positive for (according to that French lab) during that fateful 17th Stage in 2006, but according to admissions published on ESPN.com by Bonnie Ford today, Landis used testosterone in previous editions of the Tour de France as well as HgH during the 2006 season.

In other words… never mind.

Oh, Landis came clean finally, unburdening himself in e-mails to cycling and doping officials and in an interview with Ford in which he claims to have started a systematic doping program in June of 2002 when he joined up with the U.S. Postal Service team. That team, of course, was the vestige of Lance Armstrong and his hand-picked manager, Johan Bruyneel, and it’s where Landis said he leaned all about the hows and whys of performance-enhancing drug use. It wasn’t just old fashioned steroids and syringes, either. Nope, Landis appeared to be more than just a dabbler.

He says he used EPO, a drug so effective it not only improves performance quickly, but it also has the potential to kill a guy if not used properly. He also admitted to using female hormones, diabetes medication and the tried-and-true blood doping, which is when a person removes some of his own blood and stashes it in a freezer only to re-inject it when seeking a boost. That’s some old-school stuff right there.

“I don't feel guilty at all about having doped. I did what I did because that's what we (cyclists) did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 years or 12 years of hard work to get there; and that was a decision I had to make to make the next step,” Landis told Ford. “My choices were, do it and see if I can win, or don't do it and I tell people I just don't want to do that, and I decided to do it.”

Certainly that’s not a statement we hear too many athletes make, let alone one who spent three years and approximately $2 million of his own money attempting to appeal his doping ban. Making the admission even more compelling is the fact that Landis says Armstrong—and many other of the top U.S. riders—were complicit and drug users just like him.

The accusations, of course, are where people start to take notice. It’s one thing to admit that you have done something wrong, but to point out the failings of others is something significant. There’s a word for people who do those types of things and that word is, “rat.” We’ll get to the rat thing in a moment.

Nevertheless, one rider who Landis says was a doper was Dave Zabriskie, who is currently leading the Tour of California. Zabriskie was a roommate and training partner with Landis in Spain. It was in Girona, Spain, the training base for Armstrong and Landis, where it is said one of the world’s most famous athletes kept his blood in a freezer for doping. It’s also there where Bruyneel is said to have schooled Landis on the use of steroid patches, blood doping and human growth hormone.

Kind of like your readin', ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmatic of doping.

The bombshell is the stuff about Armstrong, but that goes without saying. Armstrong has long been accused and suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs in order to become the most decorated cyclist in the history of the sport, but he always fought back tenaciously pointing out that like Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds, he never tested positive for drug use.

But no other rider has ever levied accusations against Armstrong, especially one as intimate to him as Landis. It’s one thing to hear whispers of Armstrong dumping Landis’ “rest-day blood” down a sink during the Tour de France to prove some sort of angry point, but it’s another completely to read the words of one of Armstrong’s closest teammates saying that he got drugs directly from him.

Landis told Ford that he gave Dr. Michele Ferrari, Armstrong’s personal trainer, $10,000 in cash for a season’s worth of doping. Six years ago Ferrari was convicted of fraud and lost his medical license in Italy, and Landis says the doctor personally extracted and re-injected his blood for him. Landis also said he and Armstrong discussed the efficacy of the then-newly developed test for EPO in 2002.

Floydwheelie “I didn't wish to take the risks on my own and especially since it was fairly clear that his advice was endorsed by Lance himself,” Landis told Ford. “And therefore Johan and the other guys that knew of it and were involved—working with him, they'd understand the risks that I was taking as well and therefore trust me.”

Trust. That’s an interesting word, isn’t it? Why, after all these years, does the guy talk about this now? After years of refusing to cooperate or name names—you know, steadfastly choosing not to be a rat—why is Landis ratting out the old gang? After all, before he had everything to lose and yet kept his mouth shut. At least we think he kept his mouth shut though Armstrong told reporters in California this morning that he had been receiving “harassing” messages from Landis for quite some time.

Still, this morning Armstrong never said, “Floyd is a liar.” He also did not say, “I didn’t do it.” Maybe that’s beside the point.

"It's our word against his word," Armstrong said instead. "I like our word. We like our credibility. Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago."

What about Armstrong or the cycling union? Do they have any credibility? Who believes any of them at this point anymore? Armstrong might like his credibility, but it's not like Landis is the only person saying the seven-time Tour champion is a doper.

That list is long and varied.

But really… why now? Landis says he doesn’t expect anyone to believe him and it’s almost impossible for him to become a bigger pariah than he already is. The money is gone, his wife left, and his book is nothing more than a bunch of paper with words on them that are meaningless. Worse, he had to call up his mom in Lancaster County and tell her the truth.

What good is that going to do now? No team is going to hire him, the money isn’t going to come back and divorce is like toothpaste already out of the tube. When Armstrong said this morning that Landis has no credibility, it’s difficult to counter. That’s especially true when Landis admits that he does even have concrete proof and there is no paper trail or smoking gun—just some names, dates and details.

Truth? Who knows?

“I want to clear my conscience,” Landis told Ford. “I don't want to be part of the problem anymore.

“With the benefit of hindsight and a somewhat different perspective, I made some misjudgments. And of course, I can sit here and say all day long, ‘If I could do it again I'd do something different,’ but I just don't have that choice.”

No, there’s always a choice. Just because the world is a rat race doesn’t mean a guy has to be a rat. Just because a guy likes to ride his bike and play sports doesn’t mean he has to prostitute himself. Life is full of choices and a man lucky enough to have the mind to make a conscious choice is hard to feel sorry for.

But that doesn’t answer the question…

Why? Why now?

No, nothing has changed, aside, of course, for everything.

International Man of Mystery

Floyd Here we go again…

Just when we thought Floyd Landis could go hole up in his Unabomber-like shed behind a car wash in some desolate Southern California mountain town, it comes out today that he’s a wanted man. Unfortunately for Floyd, the summons isn’t from an international racing team like Lance Armstrong’s Team RadioShack or Alberto Contador’s Team Astana.

No, this time a French judge has issued an international arrest warrant for the disgraced 2006 Tour de France champ and Lancaster County, Pa. native. According to the reports, judge Thomas Cassuto wants to question Landis about a supposed computer-hacking incident at the French Chatenay-Malabry laboratory. That was the lab that reportedly committed more than 200 procedural and protocol errors when testing Landis’ positive sample in 2006.

Since Landis’ two-year ban, the lab is no longer used by the cycling union (UCI) and a possible reduction in grant money from the French government puts the lab’s future in doubt.

So maybe with extinction hanging over its head, the brass at the lab decided to go after one of the biggest pariahs in the history of sports? Or maybe there’s something to it? After all, nearly a year ago the French newspaper L'Express reported information that had been obtained from the alleged computer hacking was sent to a Canadian lab from a computer registered to Landis’ coach, Arnie Baker. A subsequent report by The New York Times showed, “No evidence has surfaced to connect Mr. Landis or Dr. Baker to the hacking, and each has denied any involvement.”

But when French judges (or any judge, for that matter) makes up his mind that something needs to happen, well by golly, something happens. Who cares how trumped up the charges might be or if the judge is even allowed to issue an international arrest warrant because when it comes out to be all BS, it isn’t the judge or the lab that has to deal with the fallout. It’s Floyd.

Man, they must really hate it when Americans win that bike race.

Meanwhile, it’s kind of interesting that Landis has become to the French what Charles Barkley is to Milwaukee. You know how it always seemed as if the Milwaukee police were sitting at the airport waiting for Sir Chuck to show up so they could slap the cuffs on him and take him downtown for brawling in a city bar. However, when some dude was living in the center of the town and near a large university where he holed up in an apartment and killed and ate people, well, they had no idea how to get that guy.

So some wacky French judge can issue an International arrest warrant for Floyd Landis for alleged computer hacking a drug lab that lied about and railroaded him, but when it comes to handing over murderers like Ira Einhorn or an alleged pedophile/rapist like Roman Polanski, or even drumming up support for convicted cop killer, Mumia Abu-Jamal, well, the French will stand up for them.

A guy who revealed the incompetence and hypocrisy of the French-supported drug lab, well, throw the book at that guy.

How dare he point out their crappy practices.

Since there is an international arrest warrant out for Landis, we have to ask…

Is there a reward? Will there be “Wanted” posters hanging up at the post office? If so, I’m thinking about putting together a posse to take him down and turn him in. He shouldn’t be too hard to find riding his bike up in the mountains… he’s quick though.

We might need to set up an ambush.

Post-script: after the writing of this, France's anti-doping chief Pierre Bordry had mistakenly described the arrest warrant as international. The warrant is only applicable on French soil, but it is possible in such cases to issue an international warrant at a later date if needed. I say we still go after him. Posse coming together.

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Floyd and Lance… Together again?

When we last checked in with Floyd Landis, he was preparing for a three-point shootout with Utah Jazz guard, Deron Williams. Obviously, Williams won but that had less to do with the fact that he has shot better than 36 percent from long range during his NBA career and more to do with the fact that Floyd was a Mennonite from Lancaster County who wasn’t allowed to wear shorts when he was a kid.

Besides, everyone knows that Mennonite kids are like Hakeem Olajuwon in the low post. And this is just mean:

Of course Landis had to squeeze in the showdown against Williams between a full slate of races for the domestic bicycling racing squad, Team OUCH, in his first year back following serious hip surgery and his suspension during the 2006 Tour de France. Yet after just one season with OUCH (and a full year of serious training), Landis left OUCH for Rock Racing because he hoped to ride in more challenging races in Europe.

It was a bold move for a couple of reasons. One is that in eight races last year, Landis cracked the top 10 just twice and when racing against an international field in the Tour of California he finished a respectable 23rd.

Those results don’t exactly make the top teams clamor to sign him up, but it wasn’t horrible. Horrible, I imagine, is Floyd shooting three-pointers against an NBA All-Star.

Another reason the departure from OUCH was bold was because Rock Racing wasn’t exactly the most stable team around. Not only did it have a bit of an outlaw image with the black kits complete with the skull and bones insignia, but also because it ended up becoming a home for a few star-crossed riders like Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla.

In a sense Landis definitely fit in with Rock, but because the International Cycling Union denied the team’s request for a license to race in Europe in 2010 it appears as if he is in an all-too familiar position called limbo.

Still, even though he doesn’t seem to have many options for racing on the big races this summer, Landis put on a Rock Racing shirt and won the time trial at the Tour of the Bahamas in a record time. Better yet, he brought out the pre-suspension trash talk after the race that everyone always (not so) secretly loved.

According to the stellar site, Twisted Spoke, Floyd said: “I was on somebody else’s road bike with clinchers and no aero clothes. Take that [bleepers].”

So does the record ride and the salty talk mean he’s ready to take on Europe? Tough question. Cycling is not like American sports where athletes who serve drug-related suspensions are welcomed back after doing the time. The Europeans hold grudges not so much because of the actual deed, but mostly because someone had the audacity to be suspected of anything.

Due process? Nah, that’s for wimpy sports where there is an actual union protecting the athletes.

Floydwheelie No, Landis doesn’t have too many options, but that hasn’t stopped the speculation from making the rounds. He’s been mentioned as a good fit for American team BMC Racing, which projects to be a solid outfit for the Tour de France. However, the brass for BMC are the same guys (owner Andy Rihs and director John Lelangue) that ran Team Phonak the year Floyd simultaneously won and was forced to give up the victory in the Tour de France.

From Day 1, of course, Floyd has been linked as a possible grinder for his old pal Lance Armstrong and his brand new Team RadioShack. That might be nothing more than wild dreams from the press and/or fans of personalities that blend like car crashes, but after all the speculation runs its course, it always comes back to the same place…

Lance and Floyd together again?

It is almost too good to be true. Imagine if Lennon and McCartney decided to go back into the studio together after The Beatles broke up. That may be pushing it a bit, but Landis was Lance’s head hatchet man for three Tour victories. Moreover, Lance hasn’t ruled it out.

“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Armstrong said. “He’s a great rider, a tremendous story.”

That could be nothing more than a politically correct answer because there is no indication that the two camps have discussed anything. Still, for some reason it always comes back to those two riding together for one last go-around.

We’re getting the band back together!

Again, who knows if it’s possible? Who knows if it will happen? But just know that no one has ruled it out as ridiculous. After all, by all accounts Lance is a loyal guy who remembers every slight and good deed. When the doping agencies put the screws on Landis and asked him to give up Lance, Landis refused to be a rat or lie. Instead of selling out anyone Floyd took it and paid with much more than money.

Certainly acts like that are worth something… right?

Don’t feed the animals

image from fingerfood.typepad.com READING, Pa. – Sitting here in the main press box in First Energy Stadium for the latest addition of the Pedro Martinez comeback and I have a few notes to pass along. We have been informed via a note tacked on the wall that we are not allowed to approach any member of the Phillies front office staff here at the ballpark.

It says:

“Members of the Phillies front office will be in attendance. They are not to be approached for interviews at any time regardless if Martinez has come out of the game…”

Seriously, it says that. Charley Kerfeld and/or Ruben Amaro Jr. are off limits, which is fine since the first-year GM is about as obtuse as they come.

Here’s the thing – I think even Ruben would think the sign is funny. Especially because, you know, he runs a BASEBALL TEAM. I could see a sign that read, “Please don’t approach the President of the United States of America,” or, “Please don’t approach the Queen of England,” or, of course, “Please don’t approach the dancers…”

But “members of the Phillies’ front office?

All these years I totally underestimated the delicate genius that is Ruben Amaro Jr. My promise to you, dear reader, is that I will exercise more caution when I “approach” him in the future.

*
image from fingerfood.typepad.com The whole reason I wanted to write this little post is to relay a press release I got in the ol’ mail box this afternoon. In fact, the headline enough was all I needed, but when I continued to read, it just got better and better.

Anyway, the headline:

Floyd Landis set to take on Utah Jazz guard Deron Williams in a three-point shootout


Not making this up. Seriously. Floyd Landis, the (infamous) bicycle racer will be in a shoot off against Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz and the Olympic gold medal basketball team from the 2008 games in Beijing.

That’s enough right there. Just the thought of Floyd going up against Deron Williams is ridiculously funny. But funnier yet is the first paragraph of the release that reads:

According to Floyd Landis of the OUCH Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis, the last time he was even on a basketball court, let alone practicing three-pointers, “was probably when I was 15.”


So no, Floyd has no chance in hell. Considering that Williams made 70 three-pointers in the NBA last season, was second in the league with 10.8 assists and also got 19.4 points per game, Floyd really is in trouble.

“Trouble,” however, is Floyd’s middle name. In addition to the three-point shootout, which will take place before the Tour of Utah, Williams will race against Floyd in a time trial. That’s good for the pro cyclist, however, Floyd is clearly focused on shooting down the NBA star.

“Cyclists are usually really good basketball players, so I’m not concerned,” Floyd said.

So there’s that.

’27 Yankees meet the ’09 Team Astana

image from fingerfood.typepad.com So last night I was up living the life and decompressing after the trip home from Atlanta that took me through Charlotte to Baltimore before finding my car intact at the BWI Marriott, and just skipping through the channels on ol’ tee-vee. That’s what I do late at night when everyone else is in bed and I’m knee-deep in baseball hours and too tired to read or write.

Anyway, the Versus channel had a show on called, Lance Armstrong: The Look Back, but when glanced at quickly on the scroll all it said was, “The Look.” That alone made it sound like a pretty good show. After all, Lance was known for flashing that Look in the peloton during his seven victories in the Tour de France, and the lead-in to the program showed that moment when he was riding toward his sixth victory when he turned all the way around in the saddle, stared right into the face of Jan Ullrich to challenge him before he rode off.

Actually, Lance did a little more than simply challenge Ullrich in the race. He just might have challenged his manhood, too.

Either way, it’s pretty clear what Versus is banking its coverage of the 2009 Tour de France on. Lance, indeed, is back and the cycling fans watching in the U.S. will get all of the details.

There’s certainly no surprise there. After three years away from the race – three of the worst years ever at the TdF (and they can only blame themselves) – the grand champ is back. Since his last victory he ran three marathons, hung out with Matthew McConaughey and one of the Olsen Twins, became a father again, had his shoulder put back together with more screws found in a three-bedroom apartment and got back into shape for the three grueling weeks of the most famous bike race on earth.

In a sense Lance retired from his retirement because it was way too busy. Why not just race a bike a couple thousand miles through the French Alps?

Nevertheless, there are reports that Lance is, indeed, the most intimidating and formidable rider in the ’09 race. No argument here. There’s The Look, the seven titles, the ability to endure ridiculous levels of pain, plus the dude is fit. Even at 37 Lance reportedly has been turning in the same type of workouts he did during the apex of his title run. In fact, he could be one of the best riders in the race…

That is if he didn’t ride for Astana.

Armstrong opened the 2009 Tour de France with a time trial in Monte Carlo that put him in fourth place… on Team Astana.

That sounds about right, too. Astana is loaded like the ’27 Yankees or an All-Star team. One stage in and the team already has four riders in the Top 10 and likely will move all four of those riders up even higher in the overall standings. A Top 4 sweep wouldn’t be far-fetched.

But for as strong as Astana is with Armstrong and American Levi Leipheimer and German Andreas Kloden, they are all just there to carve a path for Alberto Contador.

It’s Contador’s race and everyone else is just riding in it.

Contador finished second in the first time trial and that discipline isn’t even his top strength. The 26-year-old Spaniard is a climber with one TdF title under his belt from 2007 when Michael Rasmussen was booted out just days away from winning. Regardless, if Contador doesn’t win then something extraordinary must have gone wrong.

If Contador doesn’t win, Levi Leipheimer will instead.

*
Back to the Versus show…

The episode of The Look I caught was the epic Stage 17 of the 2004 Tour de France. That was the one where Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong took on the world and won. It was where Lance stared down Ullrich, Floyd earned the nickname “Mofo of the Mountains,” and was famously had an in-race dialogue to go like this:

Lance: How bad do you want to win a stage in the Tour de France?

Floyd: Real bad.

Lance: How fast can you go downhill?

Floyd: I go downhill real fast. Can I do it?

Lance: Sure you can do it … ride like you stole something, Floyd.

In the end, Floyd couldn’t fend off the best riders in the world until Lance showed up with a mad sprint to the line to win the stage.

Take a look:

Here comes Floyd

LandisOUCHThis weekend is the big, TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, the classic race that skirts through the Art Museum area, Fairmont Park and, of course, Manayunk. In some sections of town the race is a pretty good excuse to hang out and drink beer…

Not that there is ever a bad excuse.

Nevertheless, ever since the race was saved by a last-minute sponsor with a fresh injection of cash (hey, now), the comings-and-goings of the big race have kind of flown beneath the radar. Makes sense, of course, since most Philadelphians are more worried about ankle surgery for Brian Westbrook a full 12 weeks before the football season rather than some unknown bike racers tearing through town.

That would be the case, of course, if they were all unknown. But they aren’t. Floyd Landis is going to be there.

We all remember Floyd, of course. His story has been told and re-told thousands of times since he won the Tour de France in 2006 only to have it stripped away after two years of arbitration hearings and appeals through the kangaroo courts conducted by USADA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Since then Floyd has racked up $2 million in legal bills, according to reports. He moved at of his home in Murrietta, Calif. to shack up and train in a cabin in Idyllwild, a small town located in the San Jacinto Mountains south of Los Angeles.

He has a mortgage, had hip-replacement surgery, served a two-year suspension and gotten divorced. Now, he has been named in an international arrest warrant for hacking into the computer at France’s Chatenay-Malabry anti-doping lab. That’s the same lab that produced more than 200 procedural and protocol errors when testing his urine sample following the now infamous Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. Floyd’s doctor Arnie Baker is named in the warrant as well.

And yet there he is riding in races against competitors that weren’t close to his level a little more than three years ago. Back then, he said, he was “in the best shape of” his life. These days he trains and races simply because he likes to ride his bike.

As he told VeloNews in January:

“I don’t feel in any way I am coming back to race to prove anything to anyone, or to myself for that matter. I enjoy racing for the same reason the majority of people race their bikes, whether it’s on a professional level or any other level. I think the sport deserves to have the best riders in the best races. For that reason I think this year is going to be better than it has been in a long time.”

Dime-store psychology aside, riding the bike might be the only thing that makes sense in Floyd’s life these days. In fact, before the racing season began there was talk of Floyd joining a major team and racing in the 2010 Tour de France.

But as the season developed, Floyd hasn’t won any races. He’s had some crashes and strong attacks, but hasn’t been a major threat in the final standings. Hey, racing is hard and chances are he’ll be a threat soon, but in the meantime he’s coming to Philly because he likes to ride his bike…

Kind of like the folks out in Manayunk who like to drink beer.

***

Speaking of Floyd, Brett Myers had hip surgery today in New York City with hot-shot surgeon Dr. Bryan Kelly administering.

Incidentally, after he decided to have surgery Myers told me he saw pictures of his pitching before and after the injury. In one, his right leg was as high as his right shoulder in his follow through, but in the post-injury photo, his range of motion was noticeably shorter.

The surgery should be good for Myers to regain his flexibility and with it, his velocity.

***

Speaking of Floyd, J.C. Romero returned last night for the first time after serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

Interesting: in MLB, 50 games for a positive test.

In cycling, two years for a positive test.

Here comes Floyd

image from fingerfood.typepad.com This weekend is the big, TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, the classic race that skirts through the Art Museum area, Fairmont Park and, of course, Manayunk. In some sections of town the race is a pretty good excuse to hang out and drink beer…

Not that there is ever a bad excuse.

Nevertheless, ever since the race was saved by a last-minute sponsor with a fresh injection of cash (hey, now), the comings-and-goings of the big race have kind of flown beneath the radar. Makes sense, of course, since most Philadelphians are more worried about ankle surgery for Brian Westbrook a full 12 weeks before the football season rather than some unknown bike racers tearing through town.

That would be the case, of course, if they were all unknown. But they aren’t. Floyd Landis is going to be there.

We all remember Floyd, of course. His story has been told and re-told thousands of times since he won the Tour de France in 2006 only to have it stripped away after two years of arbitration hearings and appeals through the kangaroo courts conducted by USADA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Since then Floyd has racked up $2 million in legal bills, according to reports. He moved at of his home in Murrietta, Calif. to shack up and train in a cabin in Idyllwild, a small town located in the San Jacinto Mountains south of Los Angeles.

He has a mortgage, had hip-replacement surgery, served a two-year suspension and gotten divorced. Now, he has been named in an international arrest warrant for hacking into the computer at France’s Chatenay-Malabry anti-doping lab. That’s the same lab that produced more than 200 procedural and protocol errors when testing his urine sample following the now infamous Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. Floyd’s doctor Arnie Baker is named in the warrant as well.

And yet there he is riding in races against competitors that weren’t close to his level a little more than three years ago. Back then, he said, he was “in the best shape of” his life. These days he trains and races simply because he likes to ride his bike.

As he told VeloNews in January:

“I don’t feel in any way I am coming back to race to prove anything to anyone, or to myself for that matter. I enjoy racing for the same reason the majority of people race their bikes, whether it’s on a professional level or any other level. I think the sport deserves to have the best riders in the best races. For that reason I think this year is going to be better than it has been in a long time.”

Dime-store psychology aside, riding the bike might be the only thing that makes sense in Floyd’s life these days. In fact, before the racing season began there was talk of Floyd joining a major team and racing in the 2010 Tour de France.

But as the season developed, Floyd hasn’t won any races. He’s had some crashes and strong attacks, but hasn’t been a major threat in the final standings. Hey, racing is hard and chances are he’ll be a threat soon, but in the meantime he’s coming to Philly because he likes to ride his bike…

Kind of like the folks out in Manayunk who like to drink beer.

***
Speaking of Floyd, Brett Myers had hip surgery today in New York City with hot-shot surgeon Dr. Bryan Kelly administering.

Incidentally, after he decided to have surgery Myers told me he saw pictures of his pitching before and after the injury. In one, his right leg was as high as his right shoulder in his follow through, but in the post-injury photo, his range of motion was noticeably shorter.

The surgery should be good for Myers to regain his flexibility and with it, his velocity.

***
Speaking of Floyd, J.C. Romero returned last night for the first time after serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

Interesting: in MLB, 50 games for a positive test.

Hell, in cycling, it doesn’t even have to be a real positive test to get a suspension.
In cycling, two years for a positive test.

Shot from the hip

image from fingerfood.typepad.com Brett Myers joins teammate Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Lowell, Alex Gordon and Carlos Delgado (amongst others) who have (or will) undergo surgery for a torn hip labrum. And that’s just in baseball. Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals and Floyd Landis are two more notable athletes who had hip surgery recently.

That’s not all, either. Hip pain and injuries are the bane of distance runners and soccer players and it appears to have replaced the knee as the injury in baseball.

Of course shoulder injuries in pitchers are the biggest of the big, so the hip has a ways to go to catch up.

Nevertheless, with Myers acknowledging that he has to have hip surgery – whether it’s now or later is to be determined – the question has arisen about all the labral tears and hip surgeries.

What’s the deal with that? Is it something sinister or related to nefarious acts? Are these ballplayers built differently or doing something their predecessors did not?

Well, no.

Ballplayers in the old days had hip injuries and labral tears, too, only back then they called it a groin injury or some other catchall phrase. But with sports medicine and athletic training reaching new heights of insight and with technological advancements of the diagnostics, things like labrum tears and spurs are found much more easily.

Think about how many careers could have been saved if certain players were simply born in a different era. Or think about how much pain some players went through just to play their game. We know that tons of pitchers would have been able to have longer careers if Tommy John surgery had existed before 1975. That’s just one example – what was it like before arthroscopic procedures?

What if Mickey Mantle (for example) would have been able to have modern medical procedures instead of the slicing and dicing he underwent?

Anyway, Myers will need surgery and the consensus from a few medical folks who I described his situation to seem to think he will be best served to have the surgery now instead of later. Of course Myers is going to see Dr. Bryan Kelly, who just might be the Michael Jordan of hip ailments.[1] Clearly Dr. Kelly will steer Myers to the right path.

image from fingerfood.typepad.com Nevertheless, a few medical folks seem to think that Myers’ shoulder injury from 2007 might have led to his hip problems. The reason they think this is because of the significant drop in the velocity of his fastball seems to point to Myers pushing off harder with his right leg in order to throw pitches as hard as he did before the shoulder injury. By having the surgery as soon as possible – and hoping that the damage isn’t too bad – Myers could be recovered in time for the stretch run and should be throwing as hard as he once did.

Of course Myers wants to pitch now. The best season of his career came when he pitched out of the bullpen when he pitched nearly every day in September of 2007. His durability was his strength and would have been attractive on the free-agent market this off-season.

The guy likes to pitch and even when he was in pain on Wednesday night, he didn’t want to come out of the game.

Certainly it makes the decision for Myers that much more difficult.

*
I watched Randy Wolf pitch for the Dodgers against the Cubs at Wrigley Field last night and it appears as if the ex-Phillie is finally 100 percent healthy. It was easy to think about Myers and the medical issues he faces when watching Wolf pitch. Several surgeries and lots of perseverance has Wolf looking like the strongest cog in the Dodgers’ rotation.

That 3-1 record and 2.84 ERA and .221 batting-average-against would look sharp for the Phillies these days.

Still, count on the Phillies being active on the rumor mill from here on out.

*
I missed this the other day, but last Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the greatest baseball game ever pitched. That’s when Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix, a Phillie for two seasons, threw 12 perfect innings in Milwaukee, gave up a hit in the 13th inning and lost, 1-0.

Boggles the mind.

Anyway, check out Albert Chen’s story on Haddix’s game in the recent SI. The amazing part was the Milwaukee Braves were stealing Pittsburgh’s signs with binoculars and still couldn’t get a hit.


[1] Hey Doctor Kelly… I’m a distance runner who can’t shake the hip tightness and pain. Am I ever going to be fast again? Damn hip!

Hitting The Wall

image from fingerfood.typepad.com The Tour of California reported huge audiences both on television and along the course during its third annual race held last February. Part of that had to do with seven-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong riding with the big guns from Astana as well as a large contingent of the best riders in the world.

Levi Leipheimer won the race for the third year in a row and Floyd Landis made his return to sanctioned racing after his two-year ban. So needless to say, there was a lot to entice Californians to go out to watch as well as the rest of us to tune in.

Meanwhile, with Armstrong as the catalyst, cycling events in Europe (and the U.S.) have received heightened media exposure. That was especially the case when Armstrong wrecked and busted up his clavicle in a race in Spain. The pictures of the surgically repaired bone – complete with the screws holding it in place – were a hit on the Internets.

But the thing with cycling is that it ain't cheap. It costs a lot of money to get the equipment, and we aren't even talking about the bikes. Those helmets and riding kits can turn a great sport into a very expensive hobby.

Now imagine how much it costs to fund a team and put on races… that ain't cheap either. And despite a renewed interest in the sport and the fact that audiences are rolling in at greater numbers, things don't look so good for the domestic races.

That's especially the case here in Philadelphia, too. In fact, it seems very likely that an annual party along the Art Museum and Manayunk could be in jeopardy this June.

So much for Landis making his pro comeback to his home state?

According to reports, the annual TD Bank Philadelphia Cycling Championship, is on the verge of being cancelled for financial reasons. A story in The Inquirer reported that race organizers need to raise $500,000 by Monday or they will cancel the 2009 version of the race.

That could mean no party at the Manayunk Wall this June.

Actually, that's money used simply to put on the race. It does not include travel to Philadelphia, accommodations, prize fees, etc. Just like in baseball, football and every other team sport, cycling teams roll deep. In addition to the riders and the coaches, there are mechanics, drivers, doctors and a whole team infrastructure that will need to eat and sleep with the rest of the team.

Again, it ain't cheap.

As a result, the Pro Cycling Tour in the U.S. has canceled races in Allentown and Reading, which in past years served as the appetizer for the main course in Philly, which was (and is) the premier single-day race in the country and serves as the national championship.

In past years Lancaster also hosted a tour event, but passed up the event because (some) residents complained about the traffic the race caused, further exemplifying the residents' lameness.

Pretty much anyone who is anyone in top-level cycling – from Lance to Landis to Hincappie and beyond – has raced in Philly, Lancaster, Allentown or Reading. The best of the best of zoomed around our streets and now it might be coming to an end.

Here's the thing about the Philly race – it's a money maker. According to the Inquirer story, citing race organizers, the event brought an estimated $15 million to $20 million in revenue to the city. In tough economic times like these, that's nothing to sneeze at.

But because the city is so cash strapped, Mayor Michael Nutter has instituted a policy of charging events for cleanup, the police and other necessary elements of putting on a huge event. Plus, the race lost two big cycling sponsors (CSC and Rock Racing) that has put it in a position to find $500,000…

By Monday.

So it seems as if city businesses could lose a potential $15-20 million (probably less in these lean times) over $500,000… tough times indeed.

Just a slight delay for Lance

Lance Armstrong flew back to the United States on Tuesday morning. After a stopover in New York, the seven-time Tour de France champion made home to Austin, Tx. in time for an appointment with his doctor.

It was during that visit with his doctor that Armstrong learned his “clean” clavicle break wasn’t so clean after all. As of 8:20 p.m. eastern time on Tuesday, the great bike rider was getting a CT scan after learning about the not-so clean break.

“Bummer,” he tweeted on his Twitter feed.

Meanwhile, while the health and pending comeback of Lance Armstrong was all being documented in real time via “new media” (and the death of the “old media” had a bit more dirt shoveled on it with each tweet), somewhere near Paris tired old men waited anxiously for the next update.

Yes, when Armstrong “tweets” folks take notice. And no, it’s not just the fans, either. Take those tired old men in France for instance. When they read that the collarbone might be a little more damaged than expected, those “nefarious Frenchmen” might just have been moved to “twirl their moustaches and laugh heartily at his plight,” as the great Bob Ford once wrote about Lance’s ex-teammate, Floyd Landis, a few years back.

Yes, the cycling bureaucrats are feeling pretty good about themselves lately. When Lance hopped on that plane to go home, it meant there was an entire ocean between him and the nexus of the cycling universe. CT scans and doctor’s visits that elicit tweets that read, “bummer” gets that twirling in full flight. The next one might even be enough to cause a World Series-style victory celebration full of champagne spray and maybe even some high-fives. Why not? They already made him cut his hair for DNA-style drug tests.

Only in this case it might be real champagne instead of the sparkling wine those gauche Americans like.

Sacrebleu!

Continue reading this story …

Lance and Landis: Together again?

It’s probably not a coincidence that the news about Floyd Landis’ possible return to cycling in 2009 came the same time as the sport was focused on the return of an even more well-known rider. The reports that Landis is negotiating a deal to ride with Health Net-Maxxis in ’09 kind of slips under the radar a bit when everyone starts talking about Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong, of course, announced that he was coming out retirement earlier this week with the goal to win his eighth Tour de France. However, most of the speculation wasn’t that Armstrong was returning to enhance his legacy or because the competitive juices still flowed. Instead, many speculated, Armstrong had grown tired hearing the doubts that he doped to win his seven yellow jerseys.

The doubts linger despite the fact that Armstrong never tested positive in any of the hundreds of drug tests he took. Of course that’s not the greatest defense considering Barry Bonds or Marion Jones never tested positive either even though the evidence appears to prove the contrary. Conversely, Landis did, indeed, test positive after the famous 17th stage of the 2006 Tour de France, though the results leave plenty of doubt.

The doping issue isn’t going to go away no matter what. Not for Floyd, not for Lance, not for anyone. Actually, it doesn’t even matter that Armstrong says he is going to undergo the most rigorous drug-testing protocol ever devised and post the results on the web for all to deconstruct as they wish – the court of public opinion never allows an appeal.

Sigh!

Regardless, one might believe that it will be an interesting season in the peloton with Lance and Landis heading back in the saddle. However, don’t expect to see Landis racing in France – or even in the European races – next year. Health Net-Maxxis, owned by the Momentum Sports Group and set to change its title sponsor, is strictly a domestic team. That means it is likely Landis will race in events like the Tour of Georgia, as well as the three-race Commerce Bank series held in Allentown, Reading and Philadelphia.

Yes, there’s a very good chance we will see Landis take on The Manayunk Wall next summer.

But after riding for elite teams like Armstrong’s U.S. Postal squad and as the team leader for Phonak, a drop to a domestic team (even a top flight one like Health Net-Maxxis) might seem like some as a personification of Landis’ fall from grace. The speculation is the reasons for Landis likely joining Health Net-Maxxis isn’t as simple as rust, age and punishment from serving a two-year suspension. If Landis were to join an elite Europe-based team, it’s very likely that the Tour de France would not extend an invitation to that team just for spite. That’s just how they operate.

Besides, a year of good will on the U.S. circuit can go a long way. Landis can work himself back into elite-level racing shape without the rigors of international travel and scrutiny.

Plus, Landis can allow his old teammate Armstrong to blaze a trail for him. If all goes well in the comeback, old doors could re-open for a handful of American riders. In fact, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Armstrong will put the old gang back together to tear through France. Lance and Landis were a pretty formidable team not too long ago – neither man is too old for a ride down memory lane.

Of course Armstrong isn’t guaranteed a spot in the Tour next summer. It’s not crazy to think that Christian Prudhomme and his minions that head the Tour de France do not want Armstrong to race and save his sport. It wouldn’t seem as if Prudhomme could do something as dumb and arrogant as to keep Armstrong out of the race, but it wouldn’t be surprising either.

Nevertheless, published reports indicate that Armstrong will join the Astana squad – a team that did not compete in the 2008 Tour de France after top rider Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping during the surreal ’07 race. These days, though, Team Astana has new personnel, like director Johan Brunyel, who was Armstrong’s hand-picked boss of the U.S. Postal and Discovery teams.

Interestingly, a rumor that has gained some strength (and makes sense) has Armstrong buying the Astana team franchise to turn it into his own juggernaut… as if Postal and Discovery weren’t his in the first place.

Certainly if Armstrong took control of Astana, it would be very easy for him to add the riders and components he wants. Maybe by then Landis will be ready to go back to France.

A final word from Farmersville

It was quiet in Farmersville on Monday afternoon, but that was no different than any other day. Perhaps the slow moving tractor barreling down the tight, single-lane road toward the concrete bridge and Turtle Hill Road would have caused a traffic backup or at least a minor commotion had anyone else been around. Instead, it was just another typical day in the Garden Spot.

A lonely picnic table along the side of the road offered homegrown raspberries and tomatoes for sale, but there was no suggested price or even a container to stash the money.

Three horses grazed in a meadow while the Conestoga Creek bubbled behind them.

A rain storm loomed over the horizon, the dark clouds easy to see over the hills flush with still-growing corn. In a month those stalks will be too tall to see anything beyond the narrow road that snakes through the countryside.

The distant muffled rumble of thunder briefly breaks up the din of chirping birds, the bustling creek and the wind quaking against the corn.

It was very quiet in Farmersville.

And yet…

There was a neat white house just off the road with a homemade sign baring a passage from Proverbs explaining that all who follow the Lord will have peace provided for them. The message is so simple and perfect that it’s hard to believe that anyone could find anything other than peace from such a lovely spot on the earth. There is no intrusion. No forces pushing against nature. No breaking against the peace.

And yet…

“They will never get to the end of how much I can take,” the kid who grew up in that tidy white house told the biggest sports conglomerate in the world on Monday. “I’m not happy that I’m the person who has to take this, but I would never allow myself to be treated this way and ever give up.”

Could it be that a kid from Farmersville will continue to take the punishment from the government-funded bureaucracies so that they can prove its worthiness? Did the kid from Farmersville lose years from his prime and all of his money so the laboratories, corporations and government-funded bureaucracies can continue to put on shows like the Olympics without anyone questioning their integrity?

Never mind that no court in this country would ever dream of hearing a second of the case against the kid from Farmersville. But in that other world, when there is money to be made off the backs of athletes, little things like justice don’t matter much.

How dare anyone question the integrity of our flawed drug tests, the Swiss-based Court for the Arbitration of Sport scolded in its ruling late Monday morning.

“I refuse to accept that the world works this way. I don’t buy it,” the kid from Farmersville told The Los Angeles Times.

But he’s paying for it…

And then some.

Back in Farmersville on Monday afternoon, a bike rider struggles against a hill. He adjusts his gears, stands in the saddle and pushes as hard as he can on the pedals. He nods as he passes the man driving the tractor rolling down the other side of the tiny road. He looks over the corn and sees the white house with the passage from Proverbs on a homemade sign in the front yard at the crest of the hill.

Beyond the house the rain storm draws closer.

***
More: Doping case against Tour de France winner Landis is upheld (Michael A. Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times)

Landis may not race again, but he’s not done fighting (Bonnie D. Ford, ESPN.com)

Wow…

Sheesh… Based on a first (quick) read of the CAS harshly-worded decision against Floyd Landis, it appeared as if he never had a chance. Bob was right.

I’ll have more later tonight (or tomorrow morning), but in the meantime I am going to re-post what I wrote last September when the USADA ruling came down against Floyd because it still applies.

Here it is:

Cooked Case
September 20, 2007
floydWASHINGTON – Let’s just get it out of the way at the top…

I believe Floyd Landis got screwed. I believe that if his case were held to the same standards of the rule of law, Landis’s case would have never gone to trial. Hell, he would have never been indicted.

If Floyd Landis were a baseball player instead of a bike rider, he would still be out on the field without even the slightest threat of suspension.

But whatever. Righteous indignation is typically the rallying cry for losers. Everybody gets screwed at one time or another. However, the part in the case against Floyd that seems so… wrong is that it doesn’t seem as if he was given due process. That’s really the crux of my righteous indignation, aside from the notion that Floyd seems A LOT more believable than Dick Pound, Travis Tygart and the rest of those bureaucrats.

Look, I don’t care if Floyd was cocktailing HgH with winstrol and deer urine all while freezing his rest-day blood in a hyperbaric chamber. Due process is ESSENTIAL.

Wizened old sage Bob Ford, who has been around the loop at the Tour de France numerous times and could be the best cycling writer in the world, dropped me an e-mail minutes after I received one from Floyd’s PR representative, Pearl Piatt, to announce the arbitrator’s ruling. The subject line said it all:

“Cooked case.”

The rest of the email would have made a hell of a column, but it’s football and baseball season in Philadelphia so such things as a doping case involving a Mennonite bike rider from Lancaster County tend to get buried.

Except for here.

As Bob wrote last May:

Landis was caught by the Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage in Châtenay-Malabry, a facility in a suburb just southwest of Paris. The methods and procedures at the lab are sloppy, and the results it issues are increasingly suspect. Recently, the International Tennis Federation announced that drug tests from the French Open – held in Paris, by the way – would be shipped to a lab in Montreal rather than shuttled to Châtenay-Malabry. The ITF said it was an economic decision, but what was it going to say?

The French lab has spit out approximately three times as many positive results as other labs sanctioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Those results, particularly the ones involving notable American cyclists, are also quickly leaked to L’Equipe, the French sports newspaper, which happens to be owned by the company that owns the Tour de France. So it’s quite a racket.

Does any of this mean Floyd Landis is innocent, set up by nefarious Frenchmen who twirl their moustaches and laugh heartily at his plight? No, it does not. He may well be guilty. It means only that you can’t trust the evidence.

This would be fine for Landis if his case was being heard in a court of law that adhered to innocent-until and the overriding escape hatch of reasonable doubt. Instead, his arbitration, which is being prosecuted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, will be judged by a three-man panel, and was probably decided before it began.

Each side in the case picks one arbitrator, and the third is supposed to be mutually agreed upon. That didn’t happen, and the compromise member of the panel is someone who almost always rules against athletes. The decision is cooked, in other words, and Landis is done.

Floyd won the 2006 Tour de France, fairly, I think. But even for as much as I’d like to say his incredible ride in Stage 17 is still one of the most exciting days in sports I have ever seen, I’d be lying if I said it’s not a little tainted now. Yes, Floyd will probably continue to race and could one even go back to ride in the Tour de France, but it will never be the same.

And that just sucks.

Decision day

Floyd Landis learns the result of two-years spent working on his defense against doping allegations at 11 a.m. today.

But will it ever really be over?

One would assume that the governing bodies would acknowledge the work of the Court for the Arbitration of Sport if it overturns the United States Anti-Doping Association’s decision against Landis and restore his victory in the 2006 Tour de France. After all, one would assume that the sport bureaucracies will be quick to pat themselves on the back for nailing a “proven” doper if the appeal comes back in its favor.

Nevertheless, nearly two years after he arrived at the Champs-Élysées in the Yellow Jersey, Floyd Landis finally arrives at the finish line on Monday at 11 a.m.

Phew! What a ride…

The wise Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer doesn’t give Floyd much of a chance in CAS’ verdict… I don’t know. Bob is much smarter than me (which isn’t saying much), but I give Floyd a 50-50 shot.

More later…

Full plate

So I went into Starbucks this morning and ordered the big, big Sidamo coffee. Of course I mispronounced it which drew a bunch of blank stares from the baristas, before they realized what I wanted and corrected me.

“Oh… you mean Sis-AH-mo.”

“Yeah. Coffee.”

The Sidamo brew was described on the board above the urn as “delicate yet complex.” OK. But when I quipped, “Delicate yet complex… sounds like me!” I got nothing.

Blank stares.

Anyway, there is a lot going on today. To start, the struggling Phillies offense takes its road show to Arlington, Texas this evening to play the Rangers. Actually, when I write struggling offense, I really meant all-or-nothing offense. That really seems to describe the Phillies’ hitters perfectly.

Need proof? Check out this stat I was e-mailed about the all-or-nothing Phillies:

The Phillies have scored 10 or more runs in eight games this season for 110 runs. In the other 72 games, the Phillies have scored 294 runs, or 4.08 runs per game.

When scoring 10 or more runs the Phillies are 8-0. In the other 72 games they are 35-37.

Feast or famine.

When was the last time a team with numbers so skewed won the World Series?

***
Meanwhile, the track portion of the Olympic Trials begins in earnest tonight in Eugene, Oregon at Hayward Field. For those who don’t follow the sport (and you know who you are), holding the track trials at Hayward Field is staging the World Series in Wrigley Field, Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium rolled into one.

Yeah, it’s a pretty big deal. It’s an even bigger deal when one considers that the Olympic Trials are about as dramatic as it gets in sports. Think about it — athletes get one chance once every four years to qualify for the Olympic team. If they don’t finish in the top three in their event, they have to wait another four years for the next chance.

Needless to say, they bring it at the Trials.

Tonight at 9:20 p.m. the women’s 10,000-meters team will be determined. But if Shalane Flanagan doesn’t run away with this one, something is up. I’m also predicting that Katie McGregor and Elva Dryer will take the other two spots on the Olympic team.

What about Kara Goucher? Come on, you can’t go with the chalk all the time.

***
Finally, the final appeal of the Floyd Landis case will be issued on Monday by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

At last.

***
There’s more coming later today. I went to see Ted Leo and Pearl Jam in Washington last Sunday so I figured I might as write about that, too.

***
Cryptic sentence of the day:

Clips are back.

(Not so) tough as nails

Lenny DykstraIt’s kind of fun to see Lenny Dykstra turning up everywhere as the veritable media dynamo that he has become. By now, most folks have caught the new Lenny on HBO’s Real Sports talking about his career as a day trader with Bernie Goldberg.

There Lenny was again in the pages of The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker), discussing his latest venture called The Players Club, which is a magazine aimed at professional athletes on how they can better invest their high incomes so that they don’t squander it all before their playing days end.

Dykstra says it will be “the world’s best magazine” and throws around such superlatives about nearly everything he has purchased as if he were out for revenge or if he had somehow been shortchanged somewhere along the line. His car, a German Maybach, is “the best car.” He bought a Gulfstream plane because, “it’s the best in the world and there isn’t even a close second.”

It doesn’t stop with the big things, either. He raves about a door in his $17 million house purchased from Wayne Gretzky, as well as about the house itself and the weather in Southern California. It’s all the best and more than mirrors Dykstra’s style as a player that was, needless to say, all about him and “look at me.” Oh sure, Dykstra wanted to win and all of that. But given a choice between running into a fence and injuring himself or remaining healthy and on the field, Dykstra always went for the short-term glory.

But that theory flies in the face of the mission behind his The Players Club. As he said in The New Yorker:

“I’m forty-four, with a lot of mileage, dude. A lot of mileage.” The chaw is gone, and he hasn’t had a drink in years. “When the market opens at six o’clock in the morning out here, I mean, dude, you got to be up,” he says. “You get to a point in your life where, yeah, I loved baseball, but baseball’s a small part. I’m going to build something that can change the fucking outcome of people’s lives.”

Yes, because helping multi-millionaires from separating themselves from their money is soooooo altruistic.

Anyway, in addition to Real Sports and The New Yorker, Dykstra’s name has also appeared in a story in which an accounting firm is suing him for $110,000 for money owed for accounting and tax work.

Then Dykstra’s name showed up a handful of times in The Mitchell Report, which didn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Yet, the Mitchell Report and Dykstra’s physical health is the one issue that seemed to be glossed over during the HBO profile and the magazine story. With Goldberg, Dykstra’s speech was somewhat slurred, a point exemplified in Ben McGrath’s story:

His hands tremble, his back hurts, and his speech, like that of an insomniac or a stroke victim, lags slightly behind his mind. He winks without obvious intent. In his playing days, he had a term for people like this: fossils. Nothing about his physical presence any longer suggests nails, and sometimes, as if in joking recognition of this softening, he answers the phone by saying, “Thumbtacks.”

But that’s it. Dykstra’s health, just like the depth and true worth of his financial portfolio are taken at face value. In fact, the only nuance presented in either story came from Dykstra’s personality. There, Dykstra appears to be in 1993 form.

***
Floyd LandisMeanwhile, the final stop on Floyd Landis’ appeal hearing has planted itself in New York City where the case enters its third day. Landis and the USADA will present cases today and tomorrow before wrapping it all up on Monday. Then they will wait for the panel of three arbitrators with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to make a decision, which will come sometime during the calendar year… probably.

Nevertheless, there has been very little in the way of rumblings from the USADA or Landis camps, which is quite the opposite from last May’s hearing. Plus, Floyd likes to talk and hasn’t said anything to anyone.

But for a preview of the proceedings in NYC, here’s a story from ESPN’s Bonnie D. Ford.

***
I don’t like to brag[1], but I went 14-for-16 in the first day of NCAA tournament selections. I tripped up on the UNLV-Kent State and West Virginia-Arizona games.

Still, it’s not too bad for someone convinced that the tournament is nothing more than a lot of hot air until the second weekend begins.

***
Ted LeoFinally, in an interesting development, arena rock stalwarts Pearl Jam announced that they will take Ted Leo and his Pharmacists out with them for the first part of their U.S. tour, which opens in Camden, N.J. on June 19. Certainly such a decision means that Pearl Jam aims to bust their collective asses during the six dates in which Teddy Rock Star opens up the shows. After all, if Eddie Vedder and the gang give just the slightest of inches, Ted + Rx will own them.

Fortunately for the Pearl Jammers, work ethic has never been an issue. That means it will be an action-packed six shows for all involved.

Jun 19 — Camden, N.J. — Susquehanna Bank Center
Jun 22 — Washington, D.C. — Verizon Center

Jun 24 — New York, N.Y. – Madison Square Garden
Jun 25 — New York, N.Y. – Madison Square Garden

Jun 27 — Hartford, Conn. — Dodge Amphitheater
Jun 30 — Mansfield, Mass. — Tweeter Center

The always interesting Kings of Leon will take over the opening duties after Ted Leo leaves the tour.

More: Ted Leo covers Rush on WFMU


[1] Uh, yeah I do.

Who doesn’t love those hacky ‘Where are they now’ pieces?

Ed. note: I forgot to add on the Lance Armstrong part on Friday night… it was added Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m.

SlashWith the news that ex-Phillie Jon Lieber signed a one-year deal to pitch for the Cubs in 2008, it seemed like it would be a fun exercise to see what a few other former Phillies were up to these days.

But in the way of saying adios, muchacho to big Jon, it might be fair to add that his monster truck will probably go over just as well in Chicago as it did in Philadelphia. It should also be mentioned that when Lieber ruptured a tendon in his ankle while jogging off the mound that day in Cleveland last season, gravy poured out and soaked into his sock.

I’m not saying anything, I’m just sayin’.

Nevertheless, all-time favorite Doug Glanville took a break from his real-estate development business near Chicago to write an op-ed piece for The New York Times about why some ballplayers decide to use performance-enhancing drugs. Glanville, obviously, was not a PED user so he can only guess as to why players do what they do. But as an involved member of the players’ union, Glanville didn’t offer much in the way for solutions to the problem. That’s not to say it wasn’t a thoughtful story by Glanville, it’s just that I think we’re way past wondering why players decide to cheat. Perhaps it’s time to accept the fact that with some guys if they are given an inch, they’ll take a yard.

Still, it’s a shame Doug isn’t around anymore. I figured him for a front-office type, but maybe he’s on to bigger work.

***
Elsewhere, Scott Rolen made his introductions to the Toronto baseball writers this week and from all the reports it sounded like it went over as well a Slappy White show – maybe even better than that.

According to reports Rolen joked, joshed and cajoled. Basically, he was the way he always was without the misunderstandings from certain media elements. Oh yeah, neither Larry Bowa nor Tony La Russa showed up, either. That means everyone was in a good mood.

“Hmmn, I didn’t think it was going to come up. That’s surprising,” Rolen answered when asked about his old manager.

Better yet, when given more openings to get in his digs at La Russa, who gave a rambling and bizarre soliloquy on the affair during the Winter Meetings in Nashville last month, Rolen again took the high road.

“I’m not sure if that’s healthy,” he said. “I want to go back to playing baseball, I want to focus all my attention and my competition on the field. Too many times the last year, year and a half, I think that some of the competition, some of the focus was off the field, not on the field where it should stay.”

Buzz & WoodyAside from that, Rolen explained how his three-year old daughter selected his uniform No. 33 for him. It’s kind of a cute story… on another note, my three-year old son has chosen a new name for me — from now on I’m Buzz Daddy Lightyear Finger. I’m going to the courthouse to have it changed next week.

***
How about this for the best story involving a former Phillie… Newly signed San Diego Padre Randy Wolf bought Slash’s house in the Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills.

Yeah, that Slash.

From what I know about both guys, Randy’s parties might be a little wildier. During my days on the road with Slash all we ever did was visit the local libraries and modern museums of art — If you’ve seen one impressionist, you’ve seen them all.

Again, I’m not sayin’ anything, I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, apparently the joint cost just under $6 million and is approximately 5,500-square feet. There is a pool, a gym, a chef’s kitchen and if I’m not mistaken by looking at the photos, there is a lot wood… Me? I’m an oak man myself.

***
Finally, speaking of guys who know how to party, Lancasterian turned San Diego suburbanite, Floyd Landis, has a full season of racing lined up regardless of the outcome of his appeal to the CAS. According to a published report, Landis will race in the eight-race National Ultra-Endurance Series. Locally, a race is scheduled for July in State College, Pa. in a series that is described as, “old-school mountain biking.”

Yeah.

Meanwhile, Floyd gave a rather revealing interview to the Velo News on Friday where the proverbial gloves came off. Then again, what else is new?

***
Lance & Matt Speaking of cyclists and racing, Lance Armstrong is supposedly running the Boston Marathon in April. Lance qualified with a 2:59 and 2:46 in the past two New York City Marathons, which would likely put him in the starting corral as me — not that Lance is going to have to get up super early to board a bus at the Boston Common for the long ride out to Hopkinton just so he can sit on the cold, wet grass in the Athlete’s Village. Or, Lance can join the multitudes in a long wait in line for one of the port-a-potties that turn the otherwise bucolic setting into into a veritable sea of domed-lidded huts of human waste… complete with that fresh, urinal cake scent.

I wonder if Lance will take a wide-mouthed Gatorade bottle to the starting corral with him, too… you know, just in case.

Yep, that’s marathoning — there are no façades in our sport.

Anyway, it’s cool that Lance is headed to Boston. Perhaps I’ll re-evaluate my spring racing plans and show up, too, if I can find a place to stay… seems as if all the inns and motels are sold out that weekend.

Paying attention is hard

FloydFor the past four weeks I think I’ve spent 24 hours in one place two times. If I wasn’t at the ballpark, I was in a plane, train or automobile that was taking me to the ballpark or some baseball-related event.

In those four weeks I’ve ingested enough coffee and diet coke to kill a Shetland pony. If the caffeine wouldn’t get him, the aspartame[1] likely would.

Needless to say, I have a newfound respect for the guys who travel around with the baseball team every day since the middle of February. Yeah, they get to go to the ballpark, but sometimes that’s no picnic either – work is work.

Anyway, because of the Phillies and their short run into the playoffs, I have been unable to follow too much else outside of that realm. Some of this is my fault because I’m not much a multi-tasker. And other parts are my fault because I don’t live closer to where I have to work…

Nobody forced me to move out to the sticks (well, not really forced, but really… who wants to live in Philadelphia if they have a choice?)

Part of what I missed and have not been able to get deeper into was the decision by the arbitration panel in the USADA’s case against Floyd Landis. When the decision came down I was in Washington for the four-game series at RFK Stadium against the Nationals. As I recall, that was a long day – I wrote about the decision, etc. and then took the Metro over to RFK just an hour before the first pitch (3½-to-4 hours before the first pitch is the customary time of arrival for baseball writers…) to write more about the Phillies’ push to the playoffs.

The plan, as I remember, was to ride the baseball stuff out until the end of the season and then revisit the Landis case. The trouble was the baseball season kept on going, which is a new phenomenon in Philadelphia. As a result, I fell out of touch a little bit. When people asked about the case/decision during the past few weeks, I couldn’t offer anything more eloquent than, “Huh? Who? Oh yeah… that guy. I pass his old house on my way to work. It’s quiet in that neck of the woods, and there are a lot of cornfields – apparently the corn crop has been really good this year…”

Plus, there have been a few new developments in the doping front.

Let’s get this out of the way again: Floyd Landis got screwed. I don’t know if he used PEDs and I guess I really don’t care (or maybe I do seeing as how much coffee I have been drinking lately – drugs are drugs). The point is the testing process, the screening and the entire circus that went on with the French lab, the UCI, WADA and USADA is borderline criminal and completely unethical. I know there are some good people who work at those places, but they need to reevaluate what’s going on.

Besides, if the tests are performed incorrectly, then the results are B.S.. Even the two arbitrators hand-picked by USADA to deliver the desired result by the government-funded agency alluded to this in the decision.

In fact, in a strong rebuke, the two arbitrators who ruled against Landis wrote that more sloppy work by the French lab could lead to a dismissal of a case in the future.

Shudder the thought.

Dave Zabriske, Landis’ former teammate and current pro rider, summed it up perfectly.

“That’s kind of strange to me,” Zabriske told WSCN.com. “Why could it be grounds for dismissal in the future and not now?”

However, Landis’ attorney, Maurice Suh, says it wasn’t a matter of a lab doing incompetent work, though that didn’t help matters. Instead, Suh told the Associated Press that the tests did not show that Landis tested positive.

“This wasn’t a technical defense,” Suh said. “It wasn’t: ‘You didn’t do this right. You didn’t put the beaker in the right case.’ This was a case that showed that they came to the wrong result.”

Travis Tygart, the new head of the USADA, stands by the result and says it will hold up on appeal.

“This is another sad example of the crisis of character plaguing some of today’s athletes, which undermines the honest accomplishments of the overwhelming majority of athletes who compete with integrity,” he said.

Yeah, but what about the testers, the arbitrators and the alphabet soup organizations that base their funding on how many pelts they can nail to the wall?

So, after much consternation, Landis – like any stubborn dude from Lancaster County – decided to appeal the decision to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. A final, binding decision is expected in February.

“I hope that the arbitrators of the case will fairly address the facts showing that the French laboratory made mistakes, which resulted in a false positive. Although the process of proving my innocence has been difficult for me and my family, I will not stop trying to prove my innocence.”

It seems as if Landis’ appeal is as much about proving his innocence as it is proving that the anti-doping system is “cynical and corrupt.”

Certainly, if anyone has paying attention to the case, it’s pretty clear that Floyd has already shown the flaws in the system. Corrupt is a good place to start. But if Floyd wants the UCI, WADA, USADA, etc. to operate within a framework of the highest standards and ethics, forget it. He’s going to lose.

He’s dealing with career bureaucrats, you know, as in: “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.”

Suh told WCSN.com that Floyd understands it.

“We had always embarked on this trial with the understanding that ultimately victory would be difficult,” Suh told WCSN.com. “There are so many arbitrators in the system that are against the athletes that it doesn’t provide you with many options. It leaves the athletes in a difficult spot because of the small number of fair-minded arbitrators that are objective. Partisanship on part of the arbiters is a terrible thing. It doesn’t give you confidence in the outcome. One of Floyd’s primary goals was to expose flaws in the system and make known what some of the issues were. And we were prepared to deal with the fact that we wouldn’t win.”

That’s fine, but I doubt this is a completely altruistic move – I don’t think Floyd wants to take one for the team. My guess is he wants to win.

***
Meanwhile, the new, popular argument is that Marion Jones’ admission to doping before the 2000 Olympics in Sydney also casts Landis in a bad light…

What does one case have to do with the other? Marion Jones was a notorious doper who left a trail of concrete evidence behind her. In fact, the book Game of Shadows is more damning to Jones than it is to Barry Bonds – and it nails Bonds pretty good with documentation and leaked grand jury testimony. What does Marion Jones and Barry Bonds have to do with Floyd Landis?

Are people’s attention spans that short? Is it really that difficult to pay attention?

Yes. Apparently it is.


[1] I’m going to name my lesion, “Donald.”

Cooked case

floydWASHINGTON – Let’s just get it out of the way at the top…

I believe Floyd Landis got screwed. I believe that if his case were held to the same standards of the rule of law, Landis’s case would have never gone to trial. Hell, he would have never been indicted.

If Floyd Landis were a baseball player instead of a bike rider, he would still be out on the field without even the slightest threat of suspension.

But whatever. Righteous indignation is typically the rallying cry for losers. Everybody gets screwed at one time or another. However, the part in the case against Floyd that seems so… wrong is that it doesn’t seem as if he was given due process. That’s really the crux of my righteous indignation, aside from the notion that Floyd seems A LOT more believable than Dick Pound, Travis Tygart and the rest of those bureaucrats.

Look, I don’t care if Floyd was cocktailing HgH with winstrol and deer urine all while freezing his rest-day blood in a hyperbaric chamber. Due process is ESSENTIAL.

Wizened old sage Bob Ford, who has been around the loop at the Tour de France numerous times and could be the best cycling writer in the world, dropped me an e-mail minutes after I received one from Floyd’s PR representative, Pearl Piatt, to announce the arbitrator’s ruling. The subject line said it all:

“Cooked case.”

The rest of the email would have made a hell of a column, but it’s football and baseball season in Philadelphia so such things as a doping case involving a Mennonite bike rider from Lancaster County tend to get buried.

Except for here.

As Bob wrote last May:

Landis was caught by the Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage in Châtenay-Malabry, a facility in a suburb just southwest of Paris. The methods and procedures at the lab are sloppy, and the results it issues are increasingly suspect. Recently, the International Tennis Federation announced that drug tests from the French Open – held in Paris, by the way – would be shipped to a lab in Montreal rather than shuttled to Châtenay-Malabry. The ITF said it was an economic decision, but what was it going to say?

The French lab has spit out approximately three times as many positive results as other labs sanctioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Those results, particularly the ones involving notable American cyclists, are also quickly leaked to L’Equipe, the French sports newspaper, which happens to be owned by the company that owns the Tour de France. So it’s quite a racket.

Does any of this mean Floyd Landis is innocent, set up by nefarious Frenchmen who twirl their moustaches and laugh heartily at his plight? No, it does not. He may well be guilty. It means only that you can’t trust the evidence.

This would be fine for Landis if his case was being heard in a court of law that adhered to innocent-until and the overriding escape hatch of reasonable doubt. Instead, his arbitration, which is being prosecuted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, will be judged by a three-man panel, and was probably decided before it began.

Each side in the case picks one arbitrator, and the third is supposed to be mutually agreed upon. That didn’t happen, and the compromise member of the panel is someone who almost always rules against athletes. The decision is cooked, in other words, and Landis is done.

Floyd won the 2006 Tour de France, fairly, I think. But even for as much as I’d like to say his incredible ride in Stage 17 is still one of the most exciting days in sports I have ever seen, I’d be lying if I said it’s not a little tainted now. Yes, Floyd will probably continue to race and could one even go back to ride in the Tour de France, but it will never be the same.

And that just sucks.

USADA Rules Against Landis; Title Stripped

Floyd LandisWASHINGTON – After more than 14 months of waging a case to clear his name while facing inscrutable uncertainty about his future, Lancaster County native Floyd Landis finally has an answer.

Needless to say it was exactly what he did not want to hear.

“This ruling is a blow to athletes and cyclists everywhere,” Landis said in a statement. “For the Panel to find in favor of USADA when, with respect to so many issues, USADA did not manage to prove even the most basic parts of their case shows that this system is fundamentally flawed. I am innocent, and we proved I am innocent.”

A three-person arbitration panel, convened for the United States Anti-Doping Administration’s (USADA) hearing over Landis’ failed drug test following the 17th stage of the 2006 Tour de France, ruled 2-1 against the American cyclist. As a result of the ruling, Landis has been issued a two-year ban from sanctioned cycling races and has been stripped of his title in the 2006 Tour de France.

“The decision of the arbitrators clearly establishes that regardless of the evidence presented by the athlete of the errors of the laboratory, the conflicted and coordinated testimony of the anti-doping community, including heads of other WADA laboratories and experts who receive millions of dollars from USADA, will prevail over the evidence presented by the athlete,” Landis’s statement continued.

Yet, despite a dramatic, come-from-behind victory in the 2006 Tour de France, Landis is the first ever champion in the 104-year history of the race to lose his title.

Spanish rider Oscar Pereiro, who finished second to Landis in the 2006 Tour, will be declared the winner.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for all clean athletes and everyone who values fair and honest competition,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. “This decision confirms for the overwhelming majority of American athletes who compete ethically that USADA is committed to protecting their right to participate on a drug-free playing field.

This is pending more legal wrangling, of course. Landis can appeal the USADA’s ruling to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which Landis is “currently weighing his future legal alternatives in pursuing his case.” Landis has a month to make his appeal.

If he chooses to take his case to the CAS, Landis will again be fighting the positive drug following the remarkable 17th stage of the 2006 Tour de France in which he had an illegal testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio. Reports are that Landis’s T/E ratio was 11-to-1, which is significantly higher than the 4-to-1 allowed by rule.

Plus, during the 14 months of fighting the charges from the USADA, Landis says he has spent approximately $2 million (including approximately $1 million of his own money) in his defense. Following the presentation of his case at the public arbitration hearing at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. in May, Landis continued to travel across the United States in attempt to clear his name with a presentation of his fight against the allegations as well as meet-and-greet sessions in support of his book, Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France.

Additionally, Landis published all of the information about his defense and the case on his Web site, floydfairnessfund.org.

It was during his travels across the country that Landis spoke about his defense, which centered on the contention that the testing, procedures and protocol of the French-government owned laboratory, the National Laboratory for Doping Detection (LNDD), that performed the drug test during the Tour were flawed.

In fact, Landis and his legal team pointed out over 200 procedural and protocol errors by the French lab, including some that were acknowledged in the USADA arbitration hearing in May. What’s more, the LNDD’s methods and procedures are viewed as so sloppy that the International Tennis Federation opted to have its drugs tests for French Open performed in Montreal rather than at lab mere miles away from where the tournament is held.

In the ruling, the majority of arbitrators did find areas of concern about LNDD, specifically in testing protocol.

“The Panel finds that the practices of the Lab in training its employees appears to lack the vigor the Panel would expect in the circumstances given the enormous consequences to athletes of an adverse analytical finding,” the decision said. “If such practices continue, it may well be that in the future, an error like this could result in the dismissal of a positive finding by the lab.”

But alas, in the end the arbitrators were not swayed by the evidence.

Instead, the three-man panel, which convicted Landis on a 2-1 unanimous decision, sided with the USADA’s argument that did little to challenge the cyclist’s assertions. In fact, USADA attorneys never directly asked Landis if he used synthetic testosterone, as positive tests after Stage 17 at the 2006 Tour show he did. The case of anti-doping agency, which is funded in part from U.S. taxpayer dollars, centered more on Landis’s character rather than the science involved in proving whether or not an athlete had used performance-enhancing drugs.

“The majority Panel’s decision is a disappointment, but particularly so because it failed to address the joint impact of the many errors that the AFLD laboratory committed in rendering this false positive,” Landis’s attorney, Maurice Suh, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, said. “To take each of these errors singly, is to ignore the total falsity of the result. The majority panel has disregarded the testimony of Mr. Landis’ experts, who are preeminent in their respective fields, without analyzing the impact of the errors on the final result. This is a miscarriage of justice.”

In its 84-page decision, the majority found the initial drug test to measure Landis’ testosterone levels was not done according to World Anti-Doping Agency rules. However, the majority agreed that the carbon-isotope ratio analysis (IRMS), performed after a positive T/E test is recorded, was accurate.

But some, like Suh, have claimed that the hearing was a matter of the “circus not the science.”

In that regard, the incomplete testimony of former American cyclist Greg LeMond and the acknowledged prank phone call from Landis associate Will Geoghegan, took center stage.

“This case is really just another sad example of the crisis of character which plagues some of today’s athletes and undermines the honest achievements of all of those athletes who compete with integrity,” Tygart said. “Hopefully, some of the good that comes from this type of case is that other athletes who might be tempted to cheat will recognize that there is no honor in doping to win.”

The hearing will forever be remembered for its soap operatic nature of the aborted LeMond testimony in which the three-time Tour de France champion showed up and revealed that he had confided to Landis that he had been sexually abused as a child. Then, the night before his scheduled testimony, LeMond received a phone call from Geoghegan, posing as an “uncle,” in which he threatened to disclose the former rider’s secret if he showed up to the hearing.

Not only did LeMond show up, but he also claimed Landis had admitted he had doped. However, as written in the decision, the majority wrote that LeMond’s appearance was meaningless.

“The panel concludes that the respondent’s comment to Mr. LeMond did not amount to an admission of guilt or doping,” the majority wrote.

In the end, the question still remains whether or not Landis doped to win the Tour de France

Moreover, did Landis expose the anti-doping system’s testing procedures and how athletes are prosecuted? Is the system broken?

USADA will say no, and obviously, Landis’s camp will go the other way.

But the fact is the Landis case has changed the way anti-doping agencies and doping cases are viewed.

“That wasn’t even in the back of my mind, and honestly, I didn’t realize the jeopardy that athletes are in because it never crossed my mind. I had no problem giving a urine sample because I did it all the time and I assumed that the people testing it were legitimate and out to do the right thing. It never crossed my mind that it could be the way it is,” Landis explained about his trendsetting case in an interview last June. “And it’s hard for people to believe when I say it really is that bad. They think, ‘Yeah, he’s guilty. That’s why he’s trying to accuse them.’ But, even a guilty person deserves to have the evidence against him provided to him without having to spend $1 million in a year.”

It will be even more money if there is an appeal.

More on the Landis case:
Panel Rules Against Landis in Doping Case; Tour de France Title Stripped

Floyd Landis on Tour to Clear His Name

USADA release (PDF)

Arbitration Ruling: USA Cycling Athlete Floyd Landis Receives Two-Year Suspension for Doping Violation (AAA Decision) September 2007 – Majority decision, 84 pages (PDF)

AAA Dissenting decision – 26 pages (PDF)

All of the other really good stuff is at TBV

We waited for this?

Bad SantaAs Billy Bob Thornton said in the epic film, Bad Santa, “Kids… they’ll run you ragged.There have never been truer words spoken in the entire history of the cinematic arts, and the fact that it took a movie about a miserable conman and his partner who poses as Santa and his Little Helper in order to rob department stores on Christmas Eve should be of no consequence.

Kids will run you ragged. It’s so very true.

As a result of being run ragged over the last three weeks or so, I’ve had a chance to really watch the Phillies very closely on television and at the ballpark (and I’ll be tap-tap-tapping away on my little laptop from the splendor of Robert Francis Kennedy Memorial Stadium in the District of Columbia this weekend) and I gotta tell you – I’m perplexed.

The Phillies are running me ragged.

Thinking about the Phillies and their chances to make the playoffs renders the same response as my wife gets when she peppers me with three questions without pause right on top of each other. Actually, this happens at least twice a day and my response is always the same – my brow scrunches tight, my eyes narrow and then my lips move but no cognitive sounds come out of my mouth.

It’s as if my brain was a typewriter and someone pushed all of the keys at the same time.

Anyway, most folks will tell you that the Phillies’ 13-11 victory over the Cardinals in St. Louis last night was a harbinger of bad things to come. Nursing an 11-run lead into the late innings the way our pal Ken Mandel suckles a Shirley Temple, the Phillies’ bullpen turned the game into a save situation and faced a handful of at-bats in which to potential game-winning run was at the plate. Had the Phillies lost the game it would have been devastating, they say, because there are so few games remaining in the season.

How does a team deep in the throes of a pennant race bounce back from blowing an 11-0 lead?

Guess what? We’ll never know.

We’ll never know because the Phillies didn’t blow the 11-0 lead. In fact, they won the game and picked up more ground in the NL East standings to cut the Mets’ lead to 2½ games. Sure, there was the issue of the bullpen giving up 11 runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but chances are manager Charlie Manuel will bypass relievers Clay Condrey (five runs on four hits without getting an out) and Jose Mesa (6.11 ERA) in any situation of significance during the next 12 games. With J.C. Romero, Tom Gordon and Brett Myers unavailable last night because of the heavy lifting the trio did in sweeping the Mets at Shea last weekend, the Phillies’ bullpen was asked to do nothing more than play a little matador defense.

With an 11-run lead what else were they supposed to do? You know, aside from give up 11 runs…

Though Gordon is recovering from back spasms, the Phillies seem to have everyone in place for the final 12 games. With Cole Hamels set to start tonight – though he will only throw approximately 70 pitches before he heads back to the clubhouse to rub fish oil on his arm – the rotation is as good as it is going to get. And with Myers entrenched at the back of the bullpen, along with Gordon, Romero, and Geoff Geary as the go-to relievers, everyone is reasonably healthy.

The real question is whether or not the Phillies’ pitching is good enough. Most people have doubts, though the answer will be evident in less than two weeks.

The day of reckoning
It should be noted that the public relations folks that run interference for Floyd Landis have supplied me with all pertinent information to this point regarding the soon-to-be announced decision by the three-man arbitration panel in the USADA’s doping case against the Lancaster Countian and Tour de France champ. But the truth is there really isn’t anything anyone can say… at least until the big day comes.

Which will be soon, apparently.

Either way, Floyd’s people have been nothing but kind to me, which makes me feel a tiny bit bad about being a little smart-assy with them yesterday… but not that much. I kind of base my entire personality around being a jerk.

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that we will know whether or not Floyd is exonerated or will face a ban and more legal wrangling by Saturday… or Sunday… absolutely by Monday.

Take your numbers and crunch them
mcnabb In an essay for ESPN.com, the advanced and wildly astute cultural commentator Chuck Klosterman explained that fantasy football has nothing to do with reality or football. Yet despite this – or because of this – fantasy football remains wildly popular. People, it seems, love to use non-contextual statistics to show others that they… well, I don’t know what they’re trying to prove. It’s the gambling, I guess.

Anyway, if there was a better example of how sports statistics are meaningless (aside from Barry Bonds and pretty much all of baseball and football), it was seen in Donovan McNabb’s outing against the Washington Redskins last night. By all reasonable accounts, McNabb turned in a mediocre (at best) game in the 20-12 loss. However, his 240-yards passing (on 28-for-46) looks fairly decent considering that McNabb did not throw an interception.

But McNabb wasn’t very good and his team lost the game. Do you think that fantasy football players care about that?

Of course not.

My theory is that 75 (maybe 90) percent of the folks that follow the NFL from week to week do so solely for fantasy/gambling purposes. Actually, my contention is that most people really don’t care about football aside from the folks wearing the local team’s uniform, but the fact that Kelly Holcomb is a person’s bye week starter makes every smacked ass with a wireless card Doctor freaking Z.

My point is sports statistics are meaningless. They are meaningless because good players on good teams sacrifice personal glory and statistics for the good of the team. In a sense these players on good teams are a type of neo-Marxists like Steve Nash and Derek Jeter, who, despite the fact that they make hundreds of millions of dollars, wantonly distribute and share the statistical wealth to their teammates. To players like Jeter and Nash, and locally, Chase Utley, the numbers beneath their names don’t mean nearly as much as the digits in the win-loss columns.

That’s the biggest reason why people, subconsciously, don’t want fantasy sports to be “real.”

Regardless, my personal draw to fantasy football is the incessant one-upsmanship in trying to be the most funny and the most insulting amongst the people in the league. In fact, I can’t think of any other reason to participate… well, aside from winning the league championship (like I did last season) and the ancillary benefits that go with such a thing.

Finally
The burgeoning criminals behind the art-rock band, Les Savy Fav, have released a new album. It’s called “Let’s Stay Friends,” and the masterminds at Pitchfork gave it an 8.3, which seems rather arbitrary, though I’m sure it’s very meaningful.

Anyway, I uploaded three tracks from the new record on the widget on the right column. Go nuts.

‘I think of Dean Moriarty…’

Ain’t nothing changed here but the prefix ahead of the day. We’re still settled in our constant state of alert, which, interestingly, kind of spices things up around here. We are nothing more than rank-and-file members of the leisure class that Plato wrote about so any type of adventure is welcomed.

Anyway, things are taking shape.

In that regard there will be no baseball or sports viewing around here for a minimum of two days. I’m taking a time out in order to waste my time on something else. Besides, all of the injuries ripping through the Phillies’ clubhouse kind of make me anxious since I’m fighting some aches and pains, too. Apparently I have some sort of inflammation of the Psoas major (or minor) muscle that makes me warm up extra long before runs and then zaps my speed after 90-minutes of running. It also hurts when I sneeze.

This, as they say, is no good.

No, I don’t need the disabled list and I seem to be responding to treatment, but it’s easy to understand why someone wouldn’t want to look at the walking wounding in red-and-white pinstripes if at all possible.

Speaking of the Psoas major, the hip flexor and the Iliotibial band, there was an fantastic story about our boy Floyd that will be out in this Sunday’s The New York Times. It’s longer than the one I wrote, and constructed how I wish I could put mine together as well.

Plus, the USADA called the Times back and not me? That’s so lame.

Oh well, you do what you can… when you are 50 percent of a staff there isn’t much time to go jetting off to places in order to write a better story. Besides, how interested are the folks in Philadelphia in anything not relating to the Eagles or Phillies?

Sigh.

Speaking of jetting off to places, the Times also had a few interesting stories about the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

For as much as I enjoyed On the Road when I was in my late teens and early 20s, I thought (and think) Dharma Bums was much better.

Still, 50 years for On the Road gives me an idea for a road epic… how about a bike race from Floyd’s old house in Farmersville to his new one in Murrieta, Calif.? By my estimate it is probably a little more than 2,600 miles from Lancaster County to Southern California, which is slightly longer than the Tour de France, but it would probably be just as good a race.

All we need are a few sponsors, some prize money and a couple of the best bike riders in the world and we’re set.

***
Finally, there was a story in the Inquirer today about former Phillies GM Ed Wade. It seems as if Ed got himself snagged in a tree on the way back to earth after a sky-diving excursion… or so they say.

If I didn’t know any better I’d say that Wade, now an advance scout for the San Diego Padres, was pushed out of the plane or tried to pull off a D.B. Cooper type stunt.

Everybody’s working for the weekend

Last night was an easy for those looking for the story at the ballpark. Despite the Phillies’ comeback to bring them within two runs in the 7-5 defeat to the Atlanta Braves, Adam Eaton and his latest poor outing was all the talk after the game.

And it made all the papers.

The reason why, frankly, is the numbers which are quite telling. Eaton’s his league-worst ERA jumped from 6.09 to 6.36; he has allowed 17 hits and 12 runs in his last 7 1/3 innings. Worse, he has given up 46 earned runs and 76 hits in his last 10 starts, covering just 52 innings. That’s a 7.96 ERA in a little more than five innings per outing for a team in the middle of a pennant race.

“If I pitch the way I’m capable of we would be in first place,” Eaton said in delivering the money quote.

That, of course, is the big issue. If Eaton could have given the Phillies anything over the past 10 starts the Phillies and Mets could be neck and neck in the East. Instead it could shape up to be another one of those woulda, coulda, shoulda seasons for the Phillies.

Afterwards, manager Charlie Manuel remained non-committal in offering classic non-denial denials regarding Eaton’s future in the Phillies’ rotation. However, while waiting in the clubhouse for Eaton to finish his post-game meal and chat with the scribes, general manager Pat Gillick scurried into the manager’s office and closed the door. It remained that way for at least 20 minutes.

Could they have been talking about Eaton?

***
Saturday was a fairly eventful day for those who follow both Floyd Landis and Ted Leo. Unfortunately/fortunately, those folks were able to get updates on one of those subjects, that being another legendary Landis ride in a pretty tough bike race.

On very little training and no racing since last summer, Landis rode for second place in the very challenging Leadville 100 mountain bike race in Leadville, Colo. It’s a challenging race not only because of the rugged terrain and monster climbs, but also because the race starts at approximately 10,000-feet of altitude. In fact, I recall asking Floyd about doing the race eerier this summer with a raised-eyebrows, “Dude, are you really going to do that race on no training” tone.

Here’s what he said in June when I asked him if he was going to do Leadville:

“Yeah, it seemed like a good idea back when I was training more… that’s going to be painful. I’ve been riding a little more since the hearing ending – I’ve been trying to get some more miles in. If I can just get a few decent weeks of training in I’ll be alright. I don’t particularly like to race at altitude and this one is at 10,000-feet, but I’ll be fine.

“I don’t like altitude at all. I hate it. I did that thing a few weeks ago in Vail (Colorado) at the Teva Mountain Games for a fund raiser and that was a problem. The problem there was that I sat in that hearing for 10 days and I didn’t do [anything]. I didn’t even move. It wasn’t like I even exercised, I just sat there. Then I got on my bike a week later and tried to race and it was painful. Hopefully I can get some time up at altitude somewhere.”

But Floyd, as described by his wife Amber in a famous interview, is “one tough bitch.”

Around the 25-mile mark of the 100-mile race, Floyd took a nasty spill where he bloodied his left his hip, knee and elbow, shredded his shorts and bled all gnarly-like on the rest of the ride. Nevertheless, it seems that a crash on that hip would be a good way to test it out to see how it’s holding up after last autumn’s surgery… right?

Despite that, Floyd battled mountain-bike Hall of Famer, Dave Wiens to the course record. According to reports – as always TBV out-performed itself – Floyd was fighting Wiens for the victory until he got a flat tire.

Still, he nearly caught Wiens, finishing 103 seconds behind.

According to The Associated Press: “I chased too hard after the flat,” Landis said, bandages on three fingertips and blood-soaked gauze from just above the knee to his ankle. “He probably was going to win anyway, even without the flat. He’s in great shape.”

Wiens said, according to Bicycling Magazine: “That was the hardest and the best mountain bike race of my life,” said Wiens at the finish. “Mentally, physically, it was brutal. And having Floyd Landis behind you sucks.”

He is, after all, a tough bitch.

Meanwhile, I found nothing in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post or from the DC-area scenesters regarding Ted Leo and The Pharmacists’ show in Towson, Md. last night.

What the hell?

Anyway, Ted and the gang play a free show in Brooklyn this afternoon before taking a much-needed and well-deserved month off.

Not much to say

I don’t have much insight on baseball today, especially since it’s become even clearer that the Phillies apparently need to score at least 10 runs a game in order to win. With that in mind there really isn’t much to say about a team that’s goal every game is to kick in another team’s teeth.

That’s pretty black and white.

Speaking of teeth, I spent the morning at the dentist so I missed the Tour coverage. Nevertheless, based on my reading and eyeing up the results it appears as if the sprinters are back for the next few days. The course remains relatively flat until Saturday when the first of two time trials sets the table for three straight days in the Pyrenees.

It seems that the Tour will be decided in the mountains. Can Michael Rasmussen hold on until then? I’m inclined to say no. How about Alejandro Vanverde? Iban Mayo, maybe? Cadel Evans?

I’d say Levi Leipheimer, but he hasn’t yet engaged.

Speaking of engaging one’s self, Floyd Landis was invited to Google’s Mountain View, Calif. headquarters to discuss his autobiography, Positively False among other topics. Better yet, those wizards at Google even recorded the chat and put it on the Internet.

Check it out:

Here’s what I found interesting – it seems as if Floyd has become a bit of an ambassador of the sport of cycling in that he has spent the past month barnstorming the country and talking to regular folks about his sport. And I’m not just talking about him talking about his pending arbitration case or anything like that. At least in the chat at Google, Floyd was talking about his sport. There are very few people of his stature and ability doing anything remotely close to that.

Of course if Floyd had his choice he would be getting ready to ride from Marseille to Montpellier on Thursday morning, but alas…

Another busy Saturday

Given a choice between having Albert Pujols or Chase Utley for his team, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel answered quickly and without hesitation.

“Come on, I gotta go with my guy,” the skipper chided.

It wasn’t an answer based in loyalty or a show of solidarity for his guy either. Manuel firmly believes that Chase Utley is the best player in the National League. He even said as much following the 13-3 victory over Pujols’ World Champion Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night. Certainly Utley made it easy for Manuel to boast, too, by rapping out four hits to go with three RBIs to give him 71 for the season – second-best in the league – as well as his 17th home run.

Add in the fact that Utley is hitting .331 – 10 points behind league-leader Hunter Pence of Houston – and it gives Manuel’s claims more than just the mark of pride for his guy.

“He’s probably the best player the National League,” Manuel said. “And I get to see him every day.”

The last part of that quote was the real bit braggadocio. “I get to see him,” he said. “Every day.”

In a way it was a challenge, perhaps. No, not for Utley to live up to another man’s boast and help carry the bruised and battered Phillies in their push to overtake the Braves and Mets in the NL East. Instead it seemed as if the manager was telling the other folks who also have the privilege to get to see Utley play every day to enjoy it. Players like that don’t come around that often, he seemed to plead.

It also shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Manuel touted his All-Star candidate and MVP candidate on a night when Pujols and Ryan Howard were in the ballpark. Howard, of course, hits in the lineup after Utley and plays on the same side of the infield. He also is the reigning NL MVP after slugging a franchise record 58 home runs last season and currently leads the club with 21 more this season. After a slow and injury-plagued start to the 2007 season, Howard has shown glimpses of a return to his MVP form.

Pujols, on the other hand, might just go down as one of the greatest hitters of this era. In his first six seasons Pujols has never finished worse than fourth in the NL MVP balloting and claimed the award in 2005 after second-place finishes in 2002, 2003 and 2006. In his six-and-half season Pujols has clubbed 267 homers, driven in 811 runs with a .330 batting average.

Oh yeah, Pujols rarely strikes out. When he digs in at the plate it’s a safe bet that Pujols is going to hit the ball somewhere. Hard.

Still, given a choice Manuel will take his guy. You know, the one on pace to hit 30 homers and drive in 130 runs in the first year of his brand-new, seven-year contract.

“I think it’s a compliment,” Utley shrugged to reporters, noting that there are still 73 games remaining in the season.

But that’s Utley. The compliments are nice and so are the back-to-back starting nods in the All-Star Game, but to Utley a player is only as good as his last game, his last at-bat or his last play in the field. He’s clearly not interested or comfortable in talking about himself. Oh sure, he knows he’s a really good player – how could he not? But to Utley playing hard and playing well is their own reward. Celebrating is something he shares with his teammates after a victory. For Utley, the focus is on the here and now, always striving to improve in every game, every at-bat and every play in the field.

And for Utley, improving is beginning to become a monumental task.

How much better can he get?

***
Anyone wondering if ignorance is truly bliss needs to look no further than Gary Sheffield and his much-publicized interview with HBO’s “Real Sports.” Check out some of the highlights here, via Steroid Nation.

***
Apparently the genius manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, Tony La Russa, got a little testy with some members of the local baseball press following last night’s 13-3 loss.

Here’s something interesting to ponder: La Russa is in the last year of his deal with the Cardinals, while Manuel is in the last year of his deal with the Phillies. Wouldn’t it be something if they traded positions, or at the very least, if La Russa took over as skipper for the Phillies?

Then we’d get to see how the genius handles his brains power being dissected. You know, like leaving Pujols on the bench in the ninth inning with two outs and the bases loaded in a one-run game.

Yeah, he was saving him for extra innings. Uh-huh, a real genius there.

***
I did a little investigating spurred by a chat and have deduced the following:

• Don’t expect a decision from the USADA arbitration panel on the Floyd Landis case until after the Tour de France. The panel has to render a decision in 10 days after the case has been closed, and apparently the arbitrators are still pouring over the evidence and arguments.

• Expect the ruling to come back 2-1 against Floyd. Arbitrators in such cases don’t get their jobs by being fair – they get them by being political.

“This was 2-1 against Landis before the first argument.”

I have some more stuff, too, but haven’t been able to corroborate it yet. As soon as I get a chance to ask some more questions I’ll dish away. I’m also still planning on writing the review of David Walsh’s From Lance to Lance: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France. According to a couple of folks who have crossed paths with Walsh and have read his book the short review is very consistent.

“Flimsy.”

“A house of cards.”

Most scribes that have been around for more than a few years know that when there is smoke there is also fire. However, if one is going to present the smoke as fact, they better have the goods down cold. After all, anyone who has ever spent time in a press box or media room and covered a sport has some really good stories.

Trust me. They’re good.

Suddenly I feel like David Walsh and Kitty Kelly’s love child…

Meanwhile, the Lance vs. Landis race at the Leadville 100 appears to be on. I say call up Jan Ullrich and Bjarne Riis and turn it into a party…

***
Speaking of love, today is Bastille Day and there is nothing the folks lining the mountain road from Bourg-en-Bresse over the category 1 climb at Col de la Colombiére to Le Grand-Bornand wanted to see more than a Frenchman in the lead.

That just ain’t going to happen.

My take is that a lot of the folks in France wouldn’t be disappointed if their country’s grand Tour became a lot less international and featured their best countrymen. That’s kind the sense I get from the folks in Boston about their marathon. If some slender dude from Quincy or Jamaica Plain were to win every year instead of the best runners from around the globe, it wouldn’t bother the Bostonians all that much.

France’s best hope in the 2007 Tour is Christophe Moreau is 36-years old and a veteran of the 1998 Festina doping scandal. Though he won the Dauphiné Libéré race this year, and despite finishing ninth in today’s stage at 3-minutes and 38 seconds behind winner Linus Gerdemann of T-Mobile and Germany, Moreau is not considered a threat.

How can you have a Tour de France without a dude from Germany named Linus?

Gerdemann, more than a decade younger than Moreau, isn’t considered a threat to win the Tour either, but as the race enters its second week the 24-year old is the man in Yellow. How long he holds onto it remains to be seen, however. Gerdemann’s big win on Saturday is viewed as a bit of a surprise and perhaps the kid emptied the tank with his victory. After all, the riders face three category 1 climbs tomorrow in the Alps from Le Grand-Bornand to an uphill finish in the skiing village of Tignes.

After the first rest day on Monday, the Tour gets even more difficult on Tuesday when the riders face Col du I’lseran and the infamous Col du Galibier with a category 1 climb at Col du Télégraphe mixed in for fun.

“It doesn’t mean a lot,” said contender Cadel Evans about the young German’s win. “It’s still very early.”

Stage 7 Final
1.) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany, in 4:53:13
2.) Inigo Landaluze, Euskaltel, Spain, at :40
3.) de la Fuente, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 1:39
4.) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, at 2:14
5.) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, France, at 2:21
6.) Fabian Wegmann, Gerolsteiner, Germany, at 3:32
7.) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, Spain, at 3:38
8.) Xavier Florencio, Bouygues Telecom, Spain, at 3:38
9.) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, France, at 3:38
10.) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d’Epargne, Spain, at 3:38

Overall
1.) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany, in 34:43:40
2.) Inigo Landaluze, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, at 1:24
3.) David de la Fuente, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 2:45
4.) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, France, at 2:55
5.) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, at 3:05
6.) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 3:39
7.) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, Russia, at 3:51
8.) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d’Epargne, Russia, at 3:52
9.) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, at 3:55
10.) Thomas Dekker, Rabobank, Netherlands, at 3:57

Wasting time

There are many things that people can lose that are very easily replaced. Money, sanity, keys, a wallet are just a few items that can be found or replaced if they are lost.

Time, however, is not one of them. Lost time will never be replaced and time, as we all know, is our most valuable commodity.

And because time is so precious I decided to turn off ESPN’s presentation of the Home Run Derby last night. I just didn’t have the time to waste in watching something so mindless – it couldn’t even be classified as junk food TV.

Actually, that’s the polite answer I give people (OK, person) who asked me if I caught the Home Run Derby last night. Truth be told, I had the tiniest of interest in knowing how Ryan Howard would perform – a scratch if you will. So when the telecast began and camera zoomed in on San Francisco’s ballpark (I honestly forget which corporation paid to put their tacky billboard on the buildings’ façade – besides, does it matter… don’t they all have the same name at this point?) I had my TV on and was set to devote some time to the event.

But then I heard Chris Berman’s voice.

Click!

Goodnight, folks.

No sense wasting any time on something so drawn out and annoying where the actual action is tucked neatly into the marathon of commercials… or Berman. I’d rather stand next to a giant speaker and listen to The Who circa 1969 and get tinnitus for the rest of my life than to hear Chris Berman speak a sentence. Hey, I’m sure he’s a lovely man with many redeemable qualities and goes out of his way to take care of the little people, etc., etc. But, well, you know what I’m getting at.

I’d rather deal with a case of toenail fungus than watch the Home Run Derby.

Needless to say I have no idea what happened in the Home Run Derby other than it probably lasted too long. Based on a brief scan of the reports from San Francisco’s ballpark it sounds as if I didn’t miss anything at all.

I will, sadly, tune into the All-Star Game tonight. I can’t say I’m too into it and must admit that All-Star Games in general have lost a lot of luster in the days since I was a kid. Back then I actually looked forward to those games. Now it’s just cool to have three to four days without a baseball game.

Jaded and tired? A little.

***
In an attempt to beat another day of the heat I missed a great broadcaster named Phil Liggett call the action for Stage 3 of the Tour de France. But since Versus plays them over and over in a loop I’m sure I can catch up at a moments’ notice.

I did catch the report regarding today’s outcome and my first reaction was, “Whoa! Look at Cancellara!”

That’s right, Fabian Cancellara took another stage today and looks like he will be in Yellow when the Tour hits the mountains.

Then it gets serious.

According to reports, Cancellara let it all hang out after the peloton reeled in an early breakaway during the flat, 146-mile stage. With 400 meters to go, the Swiss champ stood up, sprinted and shocked everyone by making it stick.

Meanwhile, it appears as if Cancellara and his CSC teammates are out to defend the Yellow Jersey for as long as they can. Look, Cancellara knows that as a sprint specialist he has very little chance at winning or even holding on to Yellow for more than a few more days, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to give up.

“We’re respect this jersey, and we will work to keep it,” he said.

But for now Cancellara has been the man at the Tour. Not only did he smash up the field in the prologue, but also he took a spill and injured his wrist in the Stage 2 wreck with a kilometer to go that highlighted the day’s action. Regardless, the reigning World Champion extended his overall lead by 20 seconds to 33 seconds.

Stage 3 Final
1.) Fabian Cancellara, Team CSC, Switzerland
2.) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany
3.) Danilo Napolitano, Lampre-Fondital, Italy
4.) Tom Boonen, Quick Step, Belgium
5.) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, South Africa
6.) Robert Förster, Gerolsteiner, Germany
7.) Robbie McEwen, Predictor-Lotto, Australia
8.) Bernhard Eisel, T-Mobile, Austria
9.) Mark Cavendish, T-Mobile, Great Britain
10.) Heinrich Haussler, Gerolsteiner, Germany

Overall
1.) Fabian Cancellara, Team CSC, Switzerland, in 15:12:08
2.) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at :33
3.) David Millar Saunier Duval, at :41
4.) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, at :43
5.) Bradley Wiggins, Cofidis, Great Britain, same time
6.) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, Russia, at :45
7.) Tom Boonen, Quick Step, at :46
8.) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d’Epargne, Russia, same time
9.) Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole, Norway, at :49
10.) Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau, Euskaltel – Euskadi, Spain, same time

Alexandre Vinokourov, the pre-race favorite, is lurking 50 seconds back in 11th place, while top American Levi Leipheimer is a minute behind in 32nd place.

***
The wire story regarding Ivan Basso’s continued drug testing made me laugh a little. A little background: Basso is currently serving a two-year ban for doping, despite never testing positive, and was forced to take a blood and urine test when testers showed up unannounced at his home last week.

What made it funny (not ha-ha) was a story told by Floyd Landis regarding the same type of deal. In fact, Landis claims that USADA sent a tester to his house when they heard the news that his father-in-law had committed suicide.

Yes, Landis says, they did it on purpose. It’s in his book on page 212.

For the record, USADA has not returned any phone calls or e-mails to present their side of any of the stories or to refute anything. Hey, it’s not like I’m hard to find.

***
Speaking of hard to find, I decided to do some rudimentary research to see if I could find what synthetic testosterone is and how an athlete could use it to aid his performance. Simply using steroids wouldn’t help a cyclist, I figured, because muscle mass creates weight and weight is the enemy of any endurance athlete. Besides, the tests apparently show that Floyd Landis used “synthetic testosterone” during his brilliant ride during Stage 17 of last year’s Tour, and using something like that (plus, all the doctors and scientists I have asked have responded with, “It doesn’t make sense…)

So what did I find? Try this report by Tom Fine of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University. In it, Fine writes that there is, “no difference between synthetic testosterone and naturally produced testosterone.”

What?

Let me get straight to the point: it’s impossible to tell for sure that anyone has taken synthetic testosterone.

Unfortunately, the way Floyd Landis’ exogenous testosterone test has been portrayed in the media is as if it were a perfectly definitive test. Like pink for pregnant and white for not (not really a good example, since that isn’t so accurate). Such tests do exist: tests with a binary outcome, yes or no, and an extremely low false positive or false negative rate. This is simply not one of them.

There is no difference between synthetic testosterone and naturally produced testosterone – they’re one and the same chemical. Same atoms, in the same configuration, forming the exact same molecule, with identical chemical properties. At least at the atomic level. Once you mix natural and synthetic testosterone, you can’t separate them again, any more than you could separate Evian from Poland Springs bottled water after they’d been mixed. Actually that’s a bad example. It would be more akin to separating two kinds of distilled water from each other. Even that would be easier than testosterone, since one would presume that distilled water sources don’t change rapidly.

At any rate, natural and synthetic testosterone are usually different at the subatomic level. All the carbon in the world has six protons, and almost all the carbon in the world has six neutrons (called carbon-12). Some small portion of the carbon though, has seven neutrons (carbon-13), and an even smaller portion has eight (carbon-14).

Here’s the full link, and here’s another, which claims the test as administered by the French lab and developed by WADA is prone to “false positives.”

This information is all in the Landis wiki, but I easily stumbled upon it with no knowledge that it existed and simply by researching synthetic testosterone.

Again, the USADA has not returned phone calls or e-mails. Nor did they refute these facts during the arbitration hearing in May.

Anyway, back to the original search — synthetic testosterone commonly come in the following forms:

Testosterone Cypionate (Sold as Depo-Testosterone Cypionate)
The effect of Depo-Testosterone Cypionate is sustained longer in the body than anabolic steroids. A single injection of 200-400 mg is given once every 2-4 weeks, then a rest period of 4 weeks, followed by another injection once every 2-4 weeks.

Transdermal Testosterone (the “Patch”)
Testosterone patches allow a slow, steady release of the hormone into the body. The Testoderm patch is applied daily to a man’s shaved scrotum. The newer Androderm patch can be applied daily to the upper arms, back, thighs, or abdomen.
Miller and colleagues conducted a 12-week pilot study of an experimental low-dose testosterone patch for women. Fifty-three HIV-positive women who had lost about 10% of their normal body weight, and whose blood levels of testosterone were below the normal reference range took part in the study. They were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo patch, a patch releasing 150 micrograms of testosterone daily, or a patch releasing 300 micrograms of testosterone daily. Although the patches restored testosterone levels to normal, only the women who had used the 150 microgram patch gained weight. Unfortunately, all of the weight gained was fat, not muscle mass.

Nandrolone Decanoate (Sold as Deca-Durabolin, Hybolin Decanoate)
Deca-Durabolin is probably the most popular anabolic used in the treatment of HIV-related weight loss. It has a low rate of side effects and a high anabolic effect. The drug is given by injection into a muscle, at doses ranging from 50-200 mg, every 2-4 weeks for up to 12 weeks. After four weeks off drug, another cycle of treatment can be started. The androgenic side effects of Deca-Durabolin are much milder than those of testosterone.
At doses of up to 100 mg every 3-4 weeks for up to 12 weeks, women may be able to use this drug. If any changes in menstrual periods occur, the drug should be stopped until the cause of such changes is discovered.

Oxandrolone (Oxandrin)
This is an oral anabolic steroid available through the Special Access Programme (formerly EDRP) of the Health Protection Branch of Health Canada. The androgenic effects are very low and side effects are few. The dosage for men is generally 15-40 mg daily and for women 5-20 mg daily.

Phew! I’m growing hair in funny places just typing those sentences.

Rumors on the Internets

One of the late, great Tug McGraw’s funnier lines was regarding the 1980 World Champion Phillies, when he quipped that if the FDA ever checked out the team’s clubhouse they would “Shut down baseball.” Certainly, behind the scenes that club must have been a wild dichotomy of personalities, quirks and egos. Think about it: Tug, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa and Pete Rose all in the same room at the same time…

It’s a wonder there was any oxygen left.

But here’s one I never heard and it’s equally entertaining if not something to pique one’s interest about the only championship team in the Phillies’ 124 years.

Peter Gammons, the great baseball writer, was on the Dan Patrick radio show yesterday talking about the resurgence of Sammy Sosa and his snub from the All-Star Game when he dropped a little throwaway line about the ’80 Phillies:

“Two years ago he looked like he was 63-years old and done. But he’s come back and he’s had a terrific year and yet he’s never flunked a drug test in his life. Yeah, he got caught with a corked bat – Ted Williams used a corked bat… the entire 1980 Phillies team used corked bats – that doesn’t get me morally upset. Whatever you believe you have to surmise that it’s circumstantial evidence on Sammy Sosa.”

Wait… the Phillies corked their bats? Did I hear that correctly? Ted Williams, too? Wow. Cool… I guess.

For the record, from my experience corking a bat takes a lot of patience and skill.

***
The Phillies hit Denver tonight, which is the Gateway to the Rockies. Interestingly, Denver is a city that is a lot like Philadelphia except for the fact that Denver is cool. They love the Broncos there, too. In fact, it seems as if the entire state shuts down whenever the NFL team plays.

Anyway, if I were in Denver watching the Phillies I would head up to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colo. the first chance I got. Short of that, I’d go hang in nearby Boulder along Pearl Street.

Or, if I were the gambling type, I take the hour-long drive to Black Hawk and Central City, two abandoned mining towns, that have limited stakes blackjack, poker and slots.

Then again, maybe I’d just sit there at Coors Field and read the words on my laptop.

***
The Internets are abuzz with word that a verdict in the Floyd arbitration hearing is imminent. What better time to talk about the case than on the eve of the Tour de France’s prologue in London?

Nevertheless, here’s an update from my end: The publishers of David Walsh’s book, “From Lance to Landis…” sent me a copy of the book. Kudos to them.

I haven’t read the entire book yet (it just arrived less than an hour ago), but I read several chapters (I took speed reading classes in high school and practiced a lot in college) and my knee-jerk reaction is that the book reads like the trashy conversations that sportswriters have in press boxes and media rooms anywhere in the world. Some of the tall tales may be based in truth, but there would be no chance that a self-respecting writer would even consider actually sitting down and writing about the crap that gets tossed around in those bull sessions.

Trust me on this: every writer worth a damn knows hundreds and hundreds of salacious stories regarding the teams/sports they cover that would make the typical fans’ hair stand up straight. Yet at the same time any writer worth a damn would never write those stories for public consumption because they are based in hearsay, circumstantial evidence and — get this — MIGHT NOT BE TRUE.

The aim of journalism is truth. After the truth has been proven comes the story.

Nevertheless, there are always a few who think it’s OK to write about gossip and circumstantial tall tales. Perhaps David Walsh is one of them? Either way, it will be interesting to see what is in the rest of his book and expect a review on these pages by this time next week.

For the record, I must admit that the trashy side of me enjoys those Kitty Kelly novels/biographies, too. Perhaps Walsh is equally as entertaining?

On another note, USADA still hasn’t returned my calls or e-mails.

Adding on

Lots of stuff going on around here and none of it has to do with the Phillies or baseball. In fact, with a couple of days off and the regular holiday busyness going on around here, I think the last thing I saw from the Phillies was Pat Burrell smacking a home run.

How’s that for a lasting image of the 2007 Phillies?

Anyway, here’s a prediction kind of regarding the Phillies – if someone backs out of the All-Star Game for the National Leaguers, Ryan Howard will be selected as a replacement. Certainly his numbers aren’t stupendous, but Howard is fourth in the league in homers despite spending some time on the disabled list. Howard still projects to 43 homers and 133 RBIs, which is a decent season… think the Phillies are disappointed with that?

Nope, me either.

***
I’d like to leave homeboy Floyd alone for a little while, but it just seems so impossible…

Firstly, Lance Armstrong spoke to a group in Aspen, Colo. this week and told the audience that he thinks Floyd is innocent of the doping charges levied against him, but it appears unlikely that the steamroller of (un)justice that is USADA will not agree.

In fact, it seems as if Armstrong, I and other correct-thinking folks agree that the testing in cycling far exceeds the system in the American pro sports.

Quoth Armstrong: “If you went to Major League Baseball and said, ‘We’re going to have random, unannounced, out-of-competition controls,’ they would tell you, ‘You’re crazy. No way, we’re not playing another game.’ The NFL, they would never do that. NHL, no way. Golf, forget it. Tennis, forget it. Of course, cyclists get tested more than anything else, and perhaps that’s why they get caught more than anyone else.”

Interestingly, there is a report that Armstrong may race at Leadville with Floyd on Aug. 11. Perhaps if they can coax Jan Ullrich to join them the last nine surviving Tour de France champs could be doing a race at 11,000-feet in Leadville, Colo. instead of climbing the Alpe d’Huez.

How much fun would that be?

Speaking of fun, there is a report that a verdict from USADA on the Landis case could come as early as tomorrow.

Maybe that’s what has kept someone from USADA from returning my phone calls or e-mails.

***
Speaking of ignoring me, David Walsh’s publisher has not acknowledged my request for a copy of From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France.

Perhaps it’s the crazy holiday week? Or maybe they don’t want me to read what’s in that book? Who knows? All I know is that the so-called anti-doping groups seem to have a low level of credibility when it comes to answering calls or emails.

Also, the podcast from The Competitors radio show featuring a 60-minute interview with Walsh won’t load onto my iTunes. Don’t make me listen to the pudcast again!

***
I dropped my Pat Burrell/Saddam’s hanging line on Mike Gill of The Mike Gill Show this afternoon… I think it went over well.

Putting it to bed

Phew! What a crazy few days it’s been around here. Firstly, as was well-publicized here and other places, I did the whole Landis thing last weekend, which culminated with an appearance with Floyd on the Daily News Live show on CSN yesterday. That was crazy enough until one throws in all the e-mails I received (all positive, which I wasn’t expecting, but thanks), mixed with normal life, marathon running and work.

Truth be told, I am horrible at multitasking so a normal day for most people wipes me out… so bookended between a 15-mile run in Lancaster and a 9-mile run along the Schuylkill in Philadelphia was a 30-minute outing on TV. In that regard, everyone says it went well (of course it did – would anyone tell you if you sucked… well, some might but most have a semblance of couth) but it definitely could have taken the entire 90-minutes and there are a few more things I would have liked to say.

One is that if Floyd Landis played baseball or football instead of being a professional cyclist, he never would have tested positive. Never. That’s a fact.

Conversely, if Barry Bonds were a cyclist (and what a huge cyclist he would be), he would have been banned from the sport a long time ago and he could even be looking at personal bankruptcy.

As written here before, it’s lazy, stupid and irresponsible for journalists to write how cycling (or running) cannot be taken seriously when the doping issues in baseball and football are perhaps more rampant and yet they can somehow take any of those games seriously. My guess is a lot of them used to cover baseball and football regularly and either missed the steroids stories, ignored them or were a decade late in coming to the table and have now decided to take it out on sports that have no unions and pro-active and Draconian doping policies.

During the 1990s, the only thing differentiating Major League Baseball from professional wrestling was the script.

Anyway, I think it would have been neat to talk about Floyd training and crazy stunts, such as how he decided to ride to France from Spain before the 2004 Tour de France. I could talk about training and racing stuff all day long.

OK… one last time. Here are a few snippets from Floyd on DNL:

* Floyd Landis talks about why he decided to write a book
* Landis talks about spending the past year trying to clear his name
* Landis on what happened with the testosterone tests
* Landis says he is still planning on racing in the future

And here are the links to the Landis stories:

More: Floyd Landis on Tour to Clear His Name

I also added it here: Finger Food: Floyd Landis on Tour to Clear His Name

And here: Finger Food Columns: Floyd Landis on Tour to Clear His Name

And now I’m done. Thanks for indulging and we will return this to its normal lunacy as soon as possible.

OK… here’s stage 17 from last year’s TdF:

And of course…

And then…

***
Here’s a funny one – I was catching glimpses of the Phillies game from Houston on television last night while having dinner at John Turner’s resplendent U.S. Hotel in Manayunk, when I quipped, “Geez, watching Burrell walk up to the plate to hit is like watching Saddam’s hanging. You’re sitting there the whole time thinking, ‘are they really going to go through with this? This is not going to be pleasant to watch.’”

Then sure enough, he smacks a home run. Take that, me.

On another note, it’s nice to see Aaron Rowand get an All-Star nod. Kudos to him.

***
Not that anyone else cares, but the only proper way to top off yesterday’s action-packed day would have been to roll down I-95 to Washington, D.C. to see Joe Lally and The Evens show at Fort Reno Park. I don’t want to even think about it because I know it was probably a really good show and I’m bummed that I couldn’t be there.

***
I’m not sure where I read it, but it is worth a note…

According to someone (not me and I’m upset I wasn’t smart enough to come up with it, but I wasn’t watching anyway), Florida basketball player and newly drafted Joakim Noah showed up at the NBA Draft in a suit and look that made him look like, “all of the villains from Batman rolled into one…”

Can you see Joakim getting dressed before heading off to the draft? I imagine him looking in a full-length mirror, tugging at his lapels and saying, “Wait until they get a load of me…”

Hey, if he can get away with it, let your freak flag fly.

Floyd Landis on Tour to Clear His Name

EPHRATA, Pa. – It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Not here. Not now. In any other era or any other point of history, Floyd Landis should be relaxing after a ride through the Pyrenees near his training base in Girona, Spain, or perhaps even trekking his way from France to London ahead of the prologue of the Tour de France, which is set to begin next Saturday.

Perhaps even he would be preparing for a ceremonial role in the 2007 Tour de France after undergoing hip-replacement surgery last November. Instead of leading his team through the heat of the French lowlands and the brutal climbs up the Pyrenees and Alps every day for three weeks, Landis could have been like the Grand Marshal in the race he won quite dramatically just a year ago. It could have been like a victory lap around the entire country and a way for the American rider from Lancaster County, Pa. to say thanks to the fans for witnessing the culmination of a lot of blood and sweat to make a dream come true.

Better yet, he could simply be watching it all from a top-floor suite at Le Meridien with sweeping views of the elegant City of Lights and an unobstructed look at the Eiffel Tower. That is if he had not chosen to grind it up Alpe d’Huez or Col du Galibier in an attempt to bring home two in a row.

Yeah, that’s how it was supposed be.

Landis speaks…
Why is there a disconnect between the public/press on the issues? Is it because they are “doped” on the issue of dope?
“It’s a lot of things and that tops it all off. The subject of sports is all about doping and people have had enough. So whenever the subject comes up and someone is accused, they just write it off as, ‘Yeah, he didn’t do it, I’ve heard it all before.’ That’s all fine and USADA and WADA say that [its] tests are perfect and people believe them because why would they say it if it wasn’t true? You can’t imagine that an anti-doping agency would want to do anything other than find the truth.

“But the problem is they have this lab and it’s not a very good lab and they made all of these mistakes. And when they realized they had made these mistakes and made a huge public scene and Dick Pound [president of World Anti-Doping Agency] says that, ‘Everyone says he’s guilty.’ Well, if they back down from that then they lost all credibility. They just can’t all of a sudden say, ‘we’re sorry.’”

I assume you have heard about the Walsh book?
“People have told me about it… “

Are you going to sell more books than him?
“Oh for sure. First of all, his book is in the fiction section so if people are looking for some entertainment, there you go.

“His problem is that he just hates Lance. It’s clear. He’s not anti-doping, he’s anti-Lance. That serves no purpose.”

It’s his third time writing the same book…
“How many times can you write a book in different languages? It’s still the same book.”

What can you tell people about Lance Armstrong that no one else knows?
“I don’t think I know anything that anyone else knows. People have perceptions of him that might not be very accurate, but I don’t know any details that they wouldn’t know. The guy is obsessed. With whatever he does he is obsessed, and whatever he does he wants to be the best at it.

“Ultimately, he doesn’t have a lot of close friends because of it and he winds up not being the nicest guy. But that doesn’t make him a doper. That doesn’t make him a cheater. It might make him someone you don’t want to be around, but that doesn’t mean he took advantage of anyone else or that he deserves the harassment some people are giving him, like in the Walsh book.”

Are you still going to race at Leadville (in August)?
“Yeah, it seemed like a good idea back when I was training more… that’s going to be painful. I’ve been riding a little more since the hearing ending – I’ve been trying to get some more miles in. If I can just get a few decent weeks of training in I’ll be alright. I don’t particularly like to race at altitude and this one is at 10,000-feet, but I’ll be fine.

“I don’t like altitude at all. I hate it. I did that thing a few weeks ago in Vail (Colorado) at the Teva Mountain Games for a fund raiser and that was a problem. The problem there was that I sat in that hearing for 10 days and I didn’t do [anything]. I didn’t even move. It wasn’t like I even exercised, I just sat there. Then I got on my bike a week later and tried to race and it was painful. Hopefully I can get some time up at altitude somewhere.”

When you train, do you usually go to altitude?
“When I really care and I want to be in shape and I’m training for the Tour or something, I go to altitude. It helps. It helps if you’re going to race at sea level, but if race at altitude you have to train there. You can’t just show up.”

Is training in the Northestern U.S. humidity as difficult as training at altitude?
“It’s not the same. It’s equally as hard, but (humidity) doesn’t help you adapt to altitude. It’s very difficult if you aren’t used to altitude. Riding around here is hard if you aren’t used to humidity. Those little hills that go up and down – you get tired fast riding around here [in Lancaster County]. You don’t ride 100 miles around here. In California, for example, you can ride along the coast and do 100 miles and not climb a whole lot and be alright. There’s nothing like that here.”

How good are the riding conditions in this part of the country?
“This is one of the best. If you want to win the Tour or are at the level I was at, you need big mountains. You need to be able to climb for an hour or an hour-and-a-half at a time. But as far as just riding goes and training and you want nice roads, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Who is going to win the 2007 Tour de France?
“Not me.”

— John R. Finger

Instead, Landis was sitting on a soft couch in a dimly lit but comfortable room atop of a bicycle shop near his old stomping grounds in Ephrata, Pa. answering a reporter’s questions. And he’s trying to figure out the fastest way down Route 222 in order to get from Ephrata to Lancaster for an appearance at a Barnes & Noble. From there it was figuring out how to negotiate the Schuylkill Expressway for another media outing. Instead of stages on the tour like Mazamet to Plateau-de-Beille, Landis will be attempting to get from West Chester, Pa. to Washington, D.C. to Wheaton, Ill.

Instead, Landis has lost a potential $10 million in earnings and has spent more than $1 million of his own money to clear his name.

What a difference a year makes, huh?

“I wasn’t doing this (last year),” Landis said. “Right about now I was flying from California to France to start the Tour and I was in the best shape of my life. I’m not so much now, but I’m into some other stuff.”

That other stuff is a different type of tour. Call it the Tour de Book or the Tour de Plead-thy-Case. Landis was relaxing after an afternoon ride in Souderton, Pa. to help promote the Univest Grand Prix race that will take place on Sept. 8. While relaxing, he multitasked by taking a phone call from a reporter before entertaining questions from another reporter from a Lancaster TV station and newspaper. After that, it was off to the Barnes & Noble in Lancaster where he would sign copies of his new book, Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France until late into the evening.

That’s what his life is like these days – another city; another stage; more books to sign; and more reporters asking questions leading to the same theme of, “Did you do it?” Or “How can they get away with it?” It’s a different kind of preparation with more grueling jagged mountains to climb. But unlike the Tour de France, this tour doesn’t have an end in sight.

And when it does end, it could end badly.

Needless to say, Landis hasn’t thought much about his victory in the Tour de France and it’s no wonder that he was a bit unsure of when the world’s biggest cycling race was going to begin this year. In a sense it’s like he never really won it behind the cursory pomp and celebration, but then it didn’t really mean anything yet.

“At some levels it seems like forever and other levels it went very quickly,” he said. “The whole thing was a strange experience. Winning the Tour in the first place – although it was a goal – you can imagine it all you want, but it’s not the same until it really happens. Then I basically had two days to think about it and in those two days even if you win or just finish you feel awful for awhile. So I got through those two days and I really didn’t get a chance to think about, and little did I know those were my only two days to enjoy it, and then this whole doping thing started.

“Right there that eliminated any thought of winning the Tour from my mind. It’s always been dealing with this – and I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know how the process worked, how the testing worked, and for that matter I didn’t even know what the accusation was against me. I didn’t have any paperwork or anything. It took about two months for me to get it. So everything I thought about and learned was just about what I needed to do and how to deal with the press, and obviously, I had very little idea.”

The whole doping thing has been Landis’ life since he stepped off the victory podium in Paris last July. His life, to this point, has been spent learning the intricacies of science and legal world, with equal parts circus thrown in. Along the way, Landis has become not only the biggest pariah in sports outside of baseball players Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, but also one of the pioneers in the battle for athletes’ rights as he fights to retain his 2006 Tour de France championship that could be stripped from him for an alleged positive test for testosterone following the 17th stage of the race.

Never mind the fact that Landis has not tested positive for anything before or after the now infamous Stage 17, there is a pretty good chance that he could be a banned doper despite the mountains of evidence accumulated that indicate otherwise.

And what if the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) arbitration panel rules against Landis?

“If they rule against me, they are going to have to fabricate something,” said Landis, who could face a two-year ban and become the first ever rider to be stripped of his Tour de France victory if he is convicted.

Man on a mission
It would be very difficult these days to find any one in America who hasn’t heard of Floyd Landis, the recovering Mennonite from little old Farmersville, Pa. in bucolic Lancaster County. Winning one of the biggest sporting events in the world has a way of making anonymity disappear. Everybody knows Floyd Landis now. His story has been told and re-told over and over again amongst friends and acquaintances like it was the latest episode of a favorite TV show or a crazy snap of the weather.

Be that as it may, here’s a quick recap:

Before he won the Tour de France last summer and his world was turned into fodder for the gossip and science realm of the sports pages, Floyd Landis was the cult hero in professional cycling. In fact, there was not an aspect of Landis’ life that wasn’t legendary. His training methods were renowned for being grueling and insatiable.

“There’s only one rule: The guy who trains the hardest, the most, wins. Period. Because you won’t die,” he famously said in a pre-Tour de France Outside Magazine profile last year. “Even though you feel like you’ll die, you don’t actually die. Like when you’re training, you can always do one more. Always. As tired as you might think you are, you can always, always do one more.”

You can always do one more. That is the line that personifies Floyd Landis.

Meanwhile, his on-again-off-again relationship with the sport’s biggest star, Lance Armstrong, was something every cyclist talked about. So too was Landis’ background and Lancaster County/Mennonite roots. Growing up in Farmersville, more dusty crossroads than rural hamlet, Landis didn’t have a television.

But mostly the stories about Landis amongst cyclists start out with, “Remember the time when Floyd… ” and end with some oddball feat like, “…drank 15 cappuccinos in one sitting.” Or, “rode in the Tour de France nine weeks after having hip surgery.” Or, “ate 28 bags of peanuts during a trans-Atlantic flight.”

Floyd Landis stories are the ones that involve a person pushing himself to extreme limits and taking silly risks that sometimes end with everyone smiling about what they had just witnessed.

The story should have ended after Stage 17 of the ’06 Tour. That’s where the Legend of Floyd reached epic proportions following his legendary ride to bounce back from an equally monumental collapse just the day before. It was over just 24 hours that Landis lost the leader’s Yellow Jersey in the Tour when he “bonked” and lost nearly nine minutes off his overall lead and dropped to 11th place. But in the very next stage Landis attacked the peloton from the very beginning of the 111-mile stage to amazingly regain all the time he had lost.

A few days later he was standing all alone in Paris. Floyd Landis, the kid from Farmersville, Pa., was the winner of the Tour de France.

That’s where it was supposed to end.

Instead, he became Floyd Landis the professional defendant because a urine test after that epic Stage 17 had come back positive, revealing an unusually high ratio of the hormone testosterone to the hormone epitestosterone (T/E ratio), according to a test conducted by the French government’s anti-doping clinical laboratory, the National Laboratory for Doping Detection. The lab is accredited by the Tour de France, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and USADA.

An arbitration hearing led by USADA took place in Malibu, Calif. in May and Landis is still waiting on a ruling from a three-member panel.

But in the months leading up to the arbitration hearing, Landis became a trailblazer of sorts. Just as he attacked during Stage 17, Landis attacked USADA with mountains of evidence culled from his positive test to make the case that, as he says, never should have tested positive. Some of the evidence Landis collected included forged documents, faulty testing procedures, erroneously contaminated urine samples, and claims that the positive finding on one of the urine samples came from a sample number not assigned to Landis.

But the real innovation came in what Landis did with the information he had gathered. Instead of waiting for the arbitration hearing and hiding out behind lawyers and legalese, he took his case to the people. Like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia which allows users to add information to an entry when new findings are made, Landis mounted a “Wiki Defense” in which he posted all of the information released by USADA and the French lab and allowed experts to help him mount his case and find errors in the opposition’s stance.

He also went on “The Floyd Fairness Tour” in which he raised money for his defense, made detailed presentations regarding his case and talked to anyone who would listen regarding the French lab’s findings and USADA’s case against him.

In a sense, Landis took his fight to the streets and claims that USADA has never once disputed any of his findings. In fact, USADA never disputed any of Landis’ arguments in the arbitration hearing, nor have they answered the claims he made in his new book, such as USADA offered a more lenient penalty if he could help the agency mount a doping case against Lance Armstrong.

USADA, an agency that receives some of its funding from U.S. taxpayers, did not return phone calls or e-mails for comment in this story.

Said Landis about USADA not disputing his testimony: “They don’t have anything to say.”

In the interim, Landis has become the leading advocate for non-union athlete’s rights against the national and world agencies. In fact, in facing new allegations from Irish investigative reporter David Walsh in a newly released book called, From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France, Armstrong has copied some of Landis’ moves by releasing all of the legal findings from his cases on the Internet.

So just like that Landis goes from winning the Tour de France to legal innovator? How does a guy who grew up in a home without a TV set create a “Wiki Defense” on the World Wide Web?

“That wasn’t even in the back of my mind, and honestly, I didn’t realize the jeopardy that athletes are in because it never crossed my mind. I had no problem giving a urine sample because I did it all the time and I assumed that the people testing it were legitimate and out to do the right thing. It never crossed my mind that it could be the way it is,” Landis explained. “And it’s hard for people to believe when I say it really is that bad. They think, ‘Yeah, he’s guilty. That’s why he’s trying to accuse them.’ But, even a guilty person deserves to have the evidence against him provided to him without having to spend $1 million in a year.”

Landis is mounting his legal case against the doping agencies, his information tour, and his book tour without the aid of a cycling union. In fact, if player in the NFL or Major League Baseball faced the same accusations as Landis, the players’ union would have his back. There is no such union to represent Landis.

So if Landis were a defensive lineman attacking the quarterback instead of a bicyclist attacking Alpe d’Huez would he have even tested positive?

“Of course not,” he said. “None of this should have ever happened. Look, if you’re going to enforce ethics then you have to hold yourself to the absolute highest standard. You can’t have a lab that’s doing the testing forging documents and doing just random things wrong, and when they do just write it off as, ‘Well, it’s just a mistake we’ll just write it off and ignore it.’”

It’s not the science, it’s the circus
Despite Landis’ piles of evidence and USADA not refuting them, the cyclist’s credibility was what the anti-doping agency attacked during the arbitration hearing. That’s because three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond testified that Landis’ former business manager threatened him in a crank phone call that he was going to go public with LeMond’s secret that he had been sexually abused as a child.

The manager, Will Geoghegan, was fired immediately, according to Landis, and the cyclist admits he was in the room when the call was made.

But in retrospect, Landis says LeMond’s testimony as well as the attacks against his credibility are irrelevant because LeMond and a former professional cyclist named Joe Papp were brought in to testify for USADA for no real reason.

“Either it’s science or something else. If it’s not science than what is it? Take, for instance, at the hearing where they brought in Greg LeMond and Joe Papp, neither of whom said anything,” Landis explained. “They didn’t say anything and they had no relevance. For example, Joe Papp told us that he took a bunch of drugs and apparently they didn’t help him and then he left. I didn’t know the guy, I never raced the guy – what that had to do with science is beyond me.”

Because of the LeMond controversy, the real point of the hearings was lost for headline writers and the general public, says Landis. The fact is, he says, the French lab didn’t even test him for the substance that he is accused of using.

“What really got lost and I have been trying to tell people this: when they got to the point where they had to identify the substance and they had to measure it, they identified the wrong thing. And that got lost in the whole big mess because there were so many arguments, but if you just look at that there’s no point in even talking about the rest of it. The other 200 things they did wrong don’t even matter because they didn’t even test testosterone,” Landis said.

Then, he paused, leaned forward on the couch and raised his voice beyond a normal conversational tone:

“And I don’t know how they are going to get around that! What are they going to say, ‘Well, it was something close to testosterone so we’ll just call him guilty.’ How is that going to work? I don’t know, but believe me, I’ve seen them do some pretty strange things to this point.”

An uncertain future
The Floyd Landis story has been nothing but strange. Nothing has been ordinary and nothing has come easy. Listening to Landis speak after reading his book, as well as Daniel Coyle’s Lance Armstrong’s War: One Man’s Battle Against Fate, Fame, Love, Death, Scandal, and a Few Other Rivals on the Road to the Tour de France, makes anyone want to stage a riot or a march proclaiming the man’s innocence. It’s very difficult not to believe him simply because he is fighting. Oftentimes people are baffled that those who claim they are wrongly accused don’t display anger and choose to hide in the legal system of behind the words of an attorney.

But Landis isn’t doing that. Instead of cashing in as every other Tour de France champion has, Landis faces the reality of personal bankruptcy. He very well could lose his home and his daughter could lose money once earmarked for her education simply because Floyd Landis believes he has been wronged and has chosen to stand up for himself.

He isn’t in France living a cushy life that years of putting in the hard work on the saddle have earned him, but instead is talking to everyone who will listen, signing every autograph requested and making sure that everyone who wants to have a book signed gets it.

Very certainly Landis could mail it in. He could give pat answers in a detached way, but chooses not to. Instead he engages everyone and has a conversation when no one has forced him to.

One of the biggest pariahs in sports has decided he has to fight. Actually, he doesn’t see any other choice.

And that leaves us with one more question… will Landis still be fighting next year at this time or will he be relaxing after a ride through the Pyrenees near his training base in Girona, Spain in preparation for another ride down the Champs Elysées?

“I hope so. I really hope so and I think so,” he said excitedly. “The longer this thing goes on the more I think things are going to work out because we put on a case that was never refuted even in the hearing.”

That, after all, was the way it was supposed to be.

All done

The Landis story is up.

In the meantime, here’s a Q&A with the 2006 Tour de France champion:

Are you still going to race at Leadville?
Yeah, it seemed like a good idea back when I was training more… that’s going to be painful. I’ve been riding a little more since the hearing ending – I’ve been trying to get some more miles in. If I can just get a few decent weeks of training in I’ll be alright. I don’t particularly like to race at altitude and this one is at 10,000-feet, but I’ll be fine.

I don’t like altitude at all. I hate it. I did that thing a few weeks ago in Vail (Colorado) at the Teva Mountain Games for a fund raiser and that was a problem. The problem there was that I sat in that hearing for 10 days and I didn’t do [anything]. I didn’t even move. It wasn’t like I even exercised, I just sat there. Then I got on my bike a week later and tried to race and it was painful. Hopefully I can get some time up at altitude somewhere.

When you train, do you usually go to altitude?
When I really care and I want to be in shape and I’m training for the Tour or something, I go to altitude. It helps. It helps if you’re going to race at sea level, but if race at altitude you have to train there. You can’t just show up.

Is training in the Northestern U.S. humidity as difficult as training at altitude?
It’s not the same. It’s equally as hard, but (humidity) doesn’t help you adapt to altitude. It’s very difficult if you aren’t used to altitude. Riding around here is hard if you aren’t used to humidity. Those little hills that go up and down – you get tired fast riding around here [in Lancaster County]. You don’t ride 100 miles around here. In California, for example, you can ride along the coast and do 100 miles and not climb a whole lot and be alright. There’s nothing like that here.

How good are the riding conditions in this part of the country?
This is one of the best. If you want to win the Tour or are at the level I was at, you need big mountains. You need to be able to climb for an hour or an hour-and-a-half at a time. But as far as just riding goes and training and you want nice roads, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Last year at this time… what were you doing?
I wasn’t doing this. When does the Tour start? (told July 7) Right about now I was flying from California to France to start the Tour and I was in the best shape of my life. I’m not so much now, but I’m into some other stuff.

At some levels it seems like forever and other levels it went very quickly. The whole thing was a strange experience. Winning the Tour in the first place – although it was a goal – you can’t imagine it all you want, but it’s not the same until it really happens. Then I basically had two days to think about it and in those two days you win or just finish you feel awful for awhile. So I got through those two days and I really didn’t get a chance to think about, and little did know those were my only two days enjoy it and then this whole doping thing started.

Right there that eliminated any thought of winning the Tour from my mind. It’s always been dealing with this – and I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know how the process worked, how the testing worked, and for that matter I didn’t even know what the accusation was against me. I didn’t have any paperwork or anything. It took about two months for me to get it. So everything I thought about and learned was just about what I needed to do and how to deal with the press, and obviously, I had very little idea.

So I had very little thought about actually winning the tour.

Since then you’ve become a one of the leading advocate for athletes’ rights, I assume you never expected that was part of the deal of winning the Tour de France?
That wasn’t even in the back of my mind, and honestly, I didn’t realize the jeopardy that athletes are in because it never crossed my mind. I had no problem giving a urine sample because I did it all the time and I assumed that the people testing it were legitimate and out to do the right thing. It never crossed my mind that it could be the way it is.

And it’s hard for people to believe when I say it really is that bad. They think, ‘Yeah, he’s guilty that’s why he’s trying to accuse them.’ But, even a guilty person deserves to have the evidence against him provided to him without having to spend $1 million in a year.

Ultimately, an arbitration hearing can’t handle a criminal prosecution and that’s what it is.

If you were a baseball player or a football player, would you have tested positive?
Of course not. None of this should have ever happened. Look, if you’re going to enforce ethics then you have to hold yourself to the absolute highest standard. You can’t have a lab that’s doing the testing forging documents and doing just random things wrong, and when they do just write it off as, ‘Well, it’s just a mistake we’ll just right it off and ignore it.’

Either it’s science or something else. If it’s not science than what is it? Take, for instance, at the hearing where they brought in Greg LeMond and Joe Papp, neither of whom said anything. They didn’t say anything and they had no relevance. For example, Joe Papp told us that he took a bunch of drugs and apparently they didn’t help him and then he left. I didn’t know the guy, I never raced the guy – what that had to do with science is beyond me.

No disputes from USADA?
They don’t have anything to say.

Why is there a disconnect between the public/press on the issues? Is it because they are “doped” on the issue of dope?
It’s a lot of things and that tops it all off. The subject of sports is all about doping and people have had enough. So whenever the subject comes up and someone is accused, they just write it off as, ‘Yeah, he didn’t do it, I’ve heard it all before.’ That’s all fine and USADA and WADA say that [its] tests are perfect and people believe them because why would they say it if it wasn’t true? You can’t imagine that an anti-doping agency would want to do anything other than find the truth.

But the problem is they have this lab and it’s not a very good lab and they made all of these mistakes. And when they realized they had made these mistakes and made a huge public scene and Dick Pound [president of WADA] says that, ‘Everyone says he’s guilty.’ Well, if they back down from that then they lost all credibility. They just can’t all of a sudden say, “we’re sorry.’

What if they rule against you?
If they rule against me, they are going to have to fabricate something.

What really got lost and I have been trying to tell people this: when they got to the point where they had to identify the substance and they had to measure it, they identified the wrong thing. And that got lost in the whole big mess because there were so many arguments, but if you just look at that there’s no point in even talking about the rest of it. The other 200 things they did wrong don’t even matter because they didn’t even test testosterone.

And I don’t know how they are going to get around that! What are they going to say, ‘Well, it was something close to testosterone so we’ll just call him guilty.’ How is that going to work? I don’t know, but believe me, I’ve seen them do some pretty strange things to this point.

There’s a reason why they hide behind that gag order and it’s because they have nothing to say.

I assume you have heard about the Walsh book?
People have told me about it…

Are you going to sell more books than him?
Oh for sure. First of all, his book is in the fiction section so if people are looking for some entertainment, there you go.

His problem is that he just hates Lance. It’s clear. He’s not anti-doping, he’s anti-Lance. That serves no purpose.

It’s his third time writing the same book…
How many times can you write a book in different languages? It’s still the same book.

What can you tell people about Lance that no one else knows?
I don’t think I know anything that anyone else knows. People have perceptions of him that might not be very accurate, but I don’t know any details that they wouldn’t know. The guy is obsessed. With whatever he does he is obsessed, and whatever he does he wants to be the best at it. Ultimately, he doesn’t have a lot of close friends because of it and he winds up not being the nicest guy. But that doesn’t make him a doper. That doesn’t make him a cheater. It might make him someone you don’t want to be around, but that doesn’t mean he took advantage of anyone else or that he deserves the harassment some people are giving him, like in the Walsh book.

Next year at this time will you be in France?
I hope so. I really hope so and I think so. The longer this thing goes on the more I think things are going to work out because we put on a case that was never refuted even in the hearing.

Floyd interview excerpt

I finally transcribed my entire interview with Floyd Landis, which was much longer than I thought. In fact, the entire transcription is four-typed pages and 1,613 words long. Needless to say, some of it will not appear in the story I’m writing for tomorrow. However, when the story is finished (I’m still waiting for another comment from USADA… they won’t return calls or e-mails), I will post the full transcription here. In the meantime, here’s a snippet I’ll pass along to tide everyone over:

Are you still going to race at Leadville?
Yeah, it seemed like a good idea back when I was training more… that’s going to be painful. I’ve been riding a little more since the hearing ending – I’ve been trying to get some more miles in. If I can just get a few decent weeks of training in I’ll be alright. I don’t particularly like to race at altitude and this one is at 10,000-feet, but I’ll be fine.

I don’t like altitude at all. I hate it. I did that thing a few weeks ago in Vail (Colorado) at the Teva Mountain Games for a fund raiser and that was a problem. The problem there was that I sat in that hearing for 10 days and I didn’t do [anything]. I didn’t even move. It wasn’t like I even exercised, I just sat there. Then I got on my bike a week later and tried to race and it was painful. Hopefully I can get some time up at altitude somewhere.

When you train, do you usually go to altitude?
When I really care and I want to be in shape and I’m training for the Tour or something, I go to altitude. It helps. It helps if you’re going to race at sea level, but if race at altitude you have to train there. You can’t just show up.

Is training in the Northestern U.S. humidity as difficult as training at altitude?
It’s not the same. It’s equally as hard, but (humidity) doesn’t help you adapt to altitude. It’s very difficult if you aren’t used to altitude. Riding around here is hard if you aren’t used to humidity. Those little hills that go up and down – you get tired fast riding around here [in Lancaster County]. You don’t ride 100 miles around here. In California, for example, you can ride along the coast and do 100 miles and not climb a whole lot and be alright. There’s nothing like that here.

How good are the riding conditions in this part of the country?
This is one of the best. If you want to win the Tour or are at the level I was at, you need big mountains. You need to be able to climb for an hour or an hour-and-a-half at a time. But as far as just riding goes and training and you want nice roads, it doesn’t get any better than this.

What can you tell people about Lance Armstrong that no one else knows?
I don’t think I know anything that anyone else knows. People have perceptions of him that might not be very accurate, but I don’t know any details that they wouldn’t know. The guy is obsessed. With whatever he does he is obsessed, and whatever he does he wants to be the best at it. Ultimately, he doesn’t have a lot of close friends because of it and he winds up not being the nicest guy. But that doesn’t make him a doper. That doesn’t make him a cheater. It might make him someone you don’t want to be around, but that doesn’t mean he took advantage of anyone else or that he deserves the harassment some people are giving him, like in the Walsh book.

Next year at this time will you be in France?
I hope so. I really hope so and I think so. The longer this thing goes on the more I think things are going to work out because we put on a case that was never refuted even in the hearing.

Floyd Landis on Tour to Clear His Name

EPHRATA, Pa. – It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Not here. Not now. In any other era or any other point of history, Floyd Landis should be relaxing after a ride through the Pyrenees near his training base in Girona, Spain, or perhaps even trekking his way from France to London ahead of the prologue of the Tour de France, which is set to begin next Saturday.

Perhaps even he would be preparing for a ceremonial role in the 2007 Tour de France after undergoing hip-replacement surgery last November. Instead of leading his team through the heat of the French lowlands and the brutal climbs up the Pyrenees and Alps every day for three weeks, Landis could have been like the Grand Marshal in the race he won quite dramatically just a year ago. It could have been like a victory lap around the entire country and a way for the American rider from Lancaster County, Pa. to say thanks to the fans for witnessing the culmination of a lot of blood and sweat to make a dream come true.

Better yet, he could simply be watching it all from a top-floor suite at Le Meridien with sweeping views of the elegant City of Lights and an unobstructed look at the Eiffel Tower. That is if he had not chosen to grind it up Alpe d’Huez or Col du Galibier in an attempt to bring home two in a row.

Yeah, that’s how it was supposed be.

Landis speaks…
Why is there a disconnect between the public/press on the issues? Is it because they are “doped” on the issue of dope?
“It’s a lot of things and that tops it all off. The subject of sports is all about doping and people have had enough. So whenever the subject comes up and someone is accused, they just write it off as, ‘Yeah, he didn’t do it, I’ve heard it all before.’ That’s all fine and USADA and WADA say that [its] tests are perfect and people believe them because why would they say it if it wasn’t true? You can’t imagine that an anti-doping agency would want to do anything other than find the truth.

“But the problem is they have this lab and it’s not a very good lab and they made all of these mistakes. And when they realized they had made these mistakes and made a huge public scene and Dick Pound [president of World Anti-Doping Agency] says that, ‘Everyone says he’s guilty.’ Well, if they back down from that then they lost all credibility. They just can’t all of a sudden say, ‘we’re sorry.’”

I assume you have heard about the Walsh book?
“People have told me about it… “

Are you going to sell more books than him?
“Oh for sure. First of all, his book is in the fiction section so if people are looking for some entertainment, there you go.

“His problem is that he just hates Lance. It’s clear. He’s not anti-doping, he’s anti-Lance. That serves no purpose.”

It’s his third time writing the same book…
“How many times can you write a book in different languages? It’s still the same book.”

What can you tell people about Lance Armstrong that no one else knows?
“I don’t think I know anything that anyone else knows. People have perceptions of him that might not be very accurate, but I don’t know any details that they wouldn’t know. The guy is obsessed. With whatever he does he is obsessed, and whatever he does he wants to be the best at it.

“Ultimately, he doesn’t have a lot of close friends because of it and he winds up not being the nicest guy. But that doesn’t make him a doper. That doesn’t make him a cheater. It might make him someone you don’t want to be around, but that doesn’t mean he took advantage of anyone else or that he deserves the harassment some people are giving him, like in the Walsh book.”

Are you still going to race at Leadville (in August)?
“Yeah, it seemed like a good idea back when I was training more… that’s going to be painful. I’ve been riding a little more since the hearing ending – I’ve been trying to get some more miles in. If I can just get a few decent weeks of training in I’ll be alright. I don’t particularly like to race at altitude and this one is at 10,000-feet, but I’ll be fine.

“I don’t like altitude at all. I hate it. I did that thing a few weeks ago in Vail (Colorado) at the Teva Mountain Games for a fund raiser and that was a problem. The problem there was that I sat in that hearing for 10 days and I didn’t do [anything]. I didn’t even move. It wasn’t like I even exercised, I just sat there. Then I got on my bike a week later and tried to race and it was painful. Hopefully I can get some time up at altitude somewhere.”

When you train, do you usually go to altitude?
“When I really care and I want to be in shape and I’m training for the Tour or something, I go to altitude. It helps. It helps if you’re going to race at sea level, but if race at altitude you have to train there. You can’t just show up.”

Is training in the Northestern U.S. humidity as difficult as training at altitude?
“It’s not the same. It’s equally as hard, but (humidity) doesn’t help you adapt to altitude. It’s very difficult if you aren’t used to altitude. Riding around here is hard if you aren’t used to humidity. Those little hills that go up and down – you get tired fast riding around here [in Lancaster County]. You don’t ride 100 miles around here. In California, for example, you can ride along the coast and do 100 miles and not climb a whole lot and be alright. There’s nothing like that here.”

How good are the riding conditions in this part of the country?
“This is one of the best. If you want to win the Tour or are at the level I was at, you need big mountains. You need to be able to climb for an hour or an hour-and-a-half at a time. But as far as just riding goes and training and you want nice roads, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Who is going to win the 2007 Tour de France?
“Not me.”

— John R. Finger

Instead, Landis was sitting on a soft couch in a dimly lit but comfortable room atop of a bicycle shop near his old stomping grounds in Ephrata, Pa. answering a reporter’s questions. And he’s trying to figure out the fastest way down Route 222 in order to get from Ephrata to Lancaster for an appearance at a Barnes & Noble. From there it was figuring out how to negotiate the Schuylkill Expressway for another media outing. Instead of stages on the tour like Mazamet to Plateau-de-Beille, Landis will be attempting to get from West Chester, Pa. to Washington, D.C. to Wheaton, Ill.

Instead, Landis has lost a potential $10 million in earnings and has spent more than $1 million of his own money to clear his name.

What a difference a year makes, huh?

“I wasn’t doing this (last year),” Landis said. “Right about now I was flying from California to France to start the Tour and I was in the best shape of my life. I’m not so much now, but I’m into some other stuff.”

That other stuff is a different type of tour. Call it the Tour de Book or the Tour de Plead-thy-Case. Landis was relaxing after an afternoon ride in Souderton, Pa. to help promote the Univest Grand Prix race that will take place on Sept. 8. While relaxing, he multitasked by taking a phone call from a reporter before entertaining questions from another reporter from a Lancaster TV station and newspaper. After that, it was off to the Barnes & Noble in Lancaster where he would sign copies of his new book, Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France until late into the evening.

That’s what his life is like these days – another city; another stage; more books to sign; and more reporters asking questions leading to the same theme of, “Did you do it?” Or “How can they get away with it?” It’s a different kind of preparation with more grueling jagged mountains to climb. But unlike the Tour de France, this tour doesn’t have an end in sight.

And when it does end, it could end badly.

Needless to say, Landis hasn’t thought much about his victory in the Tour de France and it’s no wonder that he was a bit unsure of when the world’s biggest cycling race was going to begin this year. In a sense it’s like he never really won it behind the cursory pomp and celebration, but then it didn’t really mean anything yet.

“At some levels it seems like forever and other levels it went very quickly,” he said. “The whole thing was a strange experience. Winning the Tour in the first place – although it was a goal – you can imagine it all you want, but it’s not the same until it really happens. Then I basically had two days to think about it and in those two days even if you win or just finish you feel awful for awhile. So I got through those two days and I really didn’t get a chance to think about, and little did I know those were my only two days to enjoy it, and then this whole doping thing started.

“Right there that eliminated any thought of winning the Tour from my mind. It’s always been dealing with this – and I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know how the process worked, how the testing worked, and for that matter I didn’t even know what the accusation was against me. I didn’t have any paperwork or anything. It took about two months for me to get it. So everything I thought about and learned was just about what I needed to do and how to deal with the press, and obviously, I had very little idea.”

The whole doping thing has been Landis’ life since he stepped off the victory podium in Paris last July. His life, to this point, has been spent learning the intricacies of science and legal world, with equal parts circus thrown in. Along the way, Landis has become not only the biggest pariah in sports outside of baseball players Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, but also one of the pioneers in the battle for athletes’ rights as he fights to retain his 2006 Tour de France championship that could be stripped from him for an alleged positive test for testosterone following the 17th stage of the race.

Never mind the fact that Landis has not tested positive for anything before or after the now infamous Stage 17, there is a pretty good chance that he could be a banned doper despite the mountains of evidence accumulated that indicate otherwise.

And what if the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) arbitration panel rules against Landis?

“If they rule against me, they are going to have to fabricate something,” said Landis, who could face a two-year ban and become the first ever rider to be stripped of his Tour de France victory if he is convicted.

Man on a mission
It would be very difficult these days to find any one in America who hasn’t heard of Floyd Landis, the recovering Mennonite from little old Farmersville, Pa. in bucolic Lancaster County. Winning one of the biggest sporting events in the world has a way of making anonymity disappear. Everybody knows Floyd Landis now. His story has been told and re-told over and over again amongst friends and acquaintances like it was the latest episode of a favorite TV show or a crazy snap of the weather.

Be that as it may, here’s a quick recap:

Before he won the Tour de France last summer and his world was turned into fodder for the gossip and science realm of the sports pages, Floyd Landis was the cult hero in professional cycling. In fact, there was not an aspect of Landis’ life that wasn’t legendary. His training methods were renowned for being grueling and insatiable.

“There’s only one rule: The guy who trains the hardest, the most, wins. Period. Because you won’t die,” he famously said in a pre-Tour de France Outside Magazine profile last year. “Even though you feel like you’ll die, you don’t actually die. Like when you’re training, you can always do one more. Always. As tired as you might think you are, you can always, always do one more.”

You can always do one more. That is the line that personifies Floyd Landis.

Meanwhile, his on-again-off-again relationship with the sport’s biggest star, Lance Armstrong, was something every cyclist talked about. So too was Landis’ background and Lancaster County/Mennonite roots. Growing up in Farmersville, more dusty crossroads than rural hamlet, Landis didn’t have a television.

But mostly the stories about Landis amongst cyclists start out with, “Remember the time when Floyd… ” and end with some oddball feat like, “…drank 15 cappuccinos in one sitting.” Or, “rode in the Tour de France nine weeks after having hip surgery.” Or, “ate 28 bags of peanuts during a trans-Atlantic flight.”

Floyd Landis stories are the ones that involve a person pushing himself to extreme limits and taking silly risks that sometimes end with everyone smiling about what they had just witnessed.

The story should have ended after Stage 17 of the ’06 Tour. That’s where the Legend of Floyd reached epic proportions following his legendary ride to bounce back from an equally monumental collapse just the day before. It was over just 24 hours that Landis lost the leader’s Yellow Jersey in the Tour when he “bonked” and lost nearly nine minutes off his overall lead and dropped to 11th place. But in the very next stage Landis attacked the peloton from the very beginning of the 111-mile stage to amazingly regain all the time he had lost.

A few days later he was standing all alone in Paris. Floyd Landis, the kid from Farmersville, Pa., was the winner of the Tour de France.

That’s where it was supposed to end.

Instead, he became Floyd Landis the professional defendant because a urine test after that epic Stage 17 had come back positive, revealing an unusually high ratio of the hormone testosterone to the hormone epitestosterone (T/E ratio), according to a test conducted by the French government’s anti-doping clinical laboratory, the National Laboratory for Doping Detection. The lab is accredited by the Tour de France, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and USADA.

An arbitration hearing led by USADA took place in Malibu, Calif. in May and Landis is still waiting on a ruling from a three-member panel.

But in the months leading up to the arbitration hearing, Landis became a trailblazer of sorts. Just as he attacked during Stage 17, Landis attacked USADA with mountains of evidence culled from his positive test to make the case that, as he says, never should have tested positive. Some of the evidence Landis collected included forged documents, faulty testing procedures, erroneously contaminated urine samples, and claims that the positive finding on one of the urine samples came from a sample number not assigned to Landis.

But the real innovation came in what Landis did with the information he had gathered. Instead of waiting for the arbitration hearing and hiding out behind lawyers and legalese, he took his case to the people. Like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia which allows users to add information to an entry when new findings are made, Landis mounted a “Wiki Defense” in which he posted all of the information released by USADA and the French lab and allowed experts to help him mount his case and find errors in the opposition’s stance.

He also went on “The Floyd Fairness Tour” in which he raised money for his defense, made detailed presentations regarding his case and talked to anyone who would listen regarding the French lab’s findings and USADA’s case against him.

In a sense, Landis took his fight to the streets and claims that USADA has never once disputed any of his findings. In fact, USADA never disputed any of Landis’ arguments in the arbitration hearing, nor have they answered the claims he made in his new book, such as USADA offered a more lenient penalty if he could help the agency mount a doping case against Lance Armstrong.

USADA, an agency that receives some of its funding from U.S. taxpayers, did not return phone calls or e-mails for comment in this story.

Said Landis about USADA not disputing his testimony: “They don’t have anything to say.”

In the interim, Landis has become the leading advocate for non-union athlete’s rights against the national and world agencies. In fact, in facing new allegations from Irish investigative reporter David Walsh in a newly released book called, From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France, Armstrong has copied some of Landis’ moves by releasing all of the legal findings from his cases on the Internet.

So just like that Landis goes from winning the Tour de France to legal innovator? How does a guy who grew up in a home without a TV set create a “Wiki Defense” on the World Wide Web?

“That wasn’t even in the back of my mind, and honestly, I didn’t realize the jeopardy that athletes are in because it never crossed my mind. I had no problem giving a urine sample because I did it all the time and I assumed that the people testing it were legitimate and out to do the right thing. It never crossed my mind that it could be the way it is,” Landis explained. “And it’s hard for people to believe when I say it really is that bad. They think, ‘Yeah, he’s guilty. That’s why he’s trying to accuse them.’ But, even a guilty person deserves to have the evidence against him provided to him without having to spend $1 million in a year.”

Landis is mounting his legal case against the doping agencies, his information tour, and his book tour without the aid of a cycling union. In fact, if player in the NFL or Major League Baseball faced the same accusations as Landis, the players’ union would have his back. There is no such union to represent Landis.

So if Landis were a defensive lineman attacking the quarterback instead of a bicyclist attacking Alpe d’Huez would he have even tested positive?

“Of course not,” he said. “None of this should have ever happened. Look, if you’re going to enforce ethics then you have to hold yourself to the absolute highest standard. You can’t have a lab that’s doing the testing forging documents and doing just random things wrong, and when they do just write it off as, ‘Well, it’s just a mistake we’ll just write it off and ignore it.’”

It’s not the science, it’s the circus
Despite Landis’ piles of evidence and USADA not refuting them, the cyclist’s credibility was what the anti-doping agency attacked during the arbitration hearing. That’s because three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond testified that Landis’ former business manager threatened him in a crank phone call that he was going to go public with LeMond’s secret that he had been sexually abused as a child.

The manager, Will Geoghegan, was fired immediately, according to Landis, and the cyclist admits he was in the room when the call was made.

But in retrospect, Landis says LeMond’s testimony as well as the attacks against his credibility are irrelevant because LeMond and a former professional cyclist named Joe Papp were brought in to testify for USADA for no real reason.

“Either it’s science or something else. If it’s not science than what is it? Take, for instance, at the hearing where they brought in Greg LeMond and Joe Papp, neither of whom said anything,” Landis explained. “They didn’t say anything and they had no relevance. For example, Joe Papp told us that he took a bunch of drugs and apparently they didn’t help him and then he left. I didn’t know the guy, I never raced the guy – what that had to do with science is beyond me.”

Because of the LeMond controversy, the real point of the hearings was lost for headline writers and the general public, says Landis. The fact is, he says, the French lab didn’t even test him for the substance that he is accused of using.

“What really got lost and I have been trying to tell people this: when they got to the point where they had to identify the substance and they had to measure it, they identified the wrong thing. And that got lost in the whole big mess because there were so many arguments, but if you just look at that there’s no point in even talking about the rest of it. The other 200 things they did wrong don’t even matter because they didn’t even test testosterone,” Landis said.

Then, he paused, leaned forward on the couch and raised his voice beyond a normal conversational tone:

“And I don’t know how they are going to get around that! What are they going to say, ‘Well, it was something close to testosterone so we’ll just call him guilty.’ How is that going to work? I don’t know, but believe me, I’ve seen them do some pretty strange things to this point.”

An uncertain future
The Floyd Landis story has been nothing but strange. Nothing has been ordinary and nothing has come easy. Listening to Landis speak after reading his book, as well as Daniel Coyle’s Lance Armstrong’s War: One Man’s Battle Against Fate, Fame, Love, Death, Scandal, and a Few Other Rivals on the Road to the Tour de France, makes anyone want to stage a riot or a march proclaiming the man’s innocence. It’s very difficult not to believe him simply because he is fighting. Oftentimes people are baffled that those who claim they are wrongly accused don’t display anger and choose to hide in the legal system of behind the words of an attorney.

But Landis isn’t doing that. Instead of cashing in as every other Tour de France champion has, Landis faces the reality of personal bankruptcy. He very well could lose his home and his daughter could lose money once earmarked for her education simply because Floyd Landis believes he has been wronged and has chosen to stand up for himself.

He isn’t in France living a cushy life that years of putting in the hard work on the saddle have earned him, but instead is talking to everyone who will listen, signing every autograph requested and making sure that everyone who wants to have a book signed gets it.

Very certainly Landis could mail it in. He could give pat answers in a detached way, but chooses not to. Instead he engages everyone and has a conversation when no one has forced him to.

One of the biggest pariahs in sports has decided he has to fight. Actually, he doesn’t see any other choice.

And that leaves us with one more question… will Landis still be fighting next year at this time or will he be relaxing after a ride through the Pyrenees near his training base in Girona, Spain in preparation for another ride down the Champs Elysées?

“I hope so. I really hope so and I think so,” he said excitedly. “The longer this thing goes on the more I think things are going to work out because we put on a case that was never refuted even in the hearing.”

That, after all, was the way it was supposed to be.

Just hangin’ out on a Friday night

Just a couple of things this afternoon/evening before I fade into working my tip-tap-tapping fingers away writing the night away…

Could a doubleheader sweep by the Mets be the beginning of the end for the Phillies? The notion that the Phillies could have moved into first place by beating up on the New Yorkers was a bit far-fetched, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. But as it stands at this precise moment (top of the eighth inning), John Maine is dealing and the Mets appear as if they are about to push the lead in the NL East to five games.

Regardless, it was nice to see that Chris Coste announced his presence with the Phillies with authority. In his first AB since being called up from Reading late last night, Coste went deep by smashing a pinch homer into the seats.

On another note, could Cole Hamels be a little tired? He seems to have hit a bit of a wall as the mathematical first half comes to a close and he really hasn’t had the same zip on his change the last handful of outings…

Dead arm?

***
I had a nice chat this afternoon with 2006 Tour de France champion Floyd Landis up in his old stomping grounds of Ephrata, Pa. My stories about Floyd will appear on CSN on Sunday and will be promoted very heavily by the crack marketing staff at CSN all day Monday.

Additionally, Floyd will appear on CSN on Daily News Live from 5-to-5:30 p.m. on Monday uninterrupted, where we will talk about all the details of his case, cycling, the book tour, his future and everything else.

Anyway, look for the stories on Sunday. I will post the links here when everything is finished as well as a few snippets of the actual interview that I recorded with my trusty iPod.

Meanwhile, I’ll give my knee-jerk impression of Floyd… if charm and class are part of his defense then he wins. He’s definitely a top-notch dude all the way. Having had the chance to talk to hundreds of professional athletes over the past decade, Floyd is at the top of the list as far as interesting and engaging guys. He very definitely could have mailed it in with me after going through thousands of questions and other crap over the past year, but he was intent on having a real conversation and taking me seriously.

It’s too bad he doesn’t play for the Phillies.

I’d definitely put Floyd up there with Scott Rolen, Doug Glanville, Randy Wolf and Mark Grace as far as the absolute best guys to talk to… a top-notch and classy dude all the way.

For some reason I was surprised at how fit Floyd still was. Though he hasn’t been training and didn’t touch a bike at all over the 10 days of his arbitration hearing, Floyd looked ready to go though he admitted that he has some work to do if he wants to ride better in the Leadville 100 in August in comparison to how he rode in the Teva Mountain Games earlier this month.

Regarding his rough ride in the Teva Mountain Games, Floyd said, “I got beat by a girl. Not just one girl, but two. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not something I’m used to.”

I don’t know what I was expecting him to look like, but was definitely looked much more fit than me and I run 15 miles every day.

Oh yeah… minutes after I left, Floyd’s wife was in an accident. Fortunately, everyone was OK.

***
I had the chance to meet Dave Pidgeon of the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal while waiting for Floyd this afternoon. Dave is the keeper of a stellar outdoors blog on his papers’ site, but politics is his main beat. Still, it’s pretty clear that Dave knows his sports as evidenced by his work.

***
My friend Andy is an analyst for The Motley Fool in the D.C. ‘burbs, and was quoted in an Associated Press story about Blockbuster shutting down 280-plus shops. That’s certainly not big news, but his quote in the story is something else.

Check this out:

“Traffic is just not what it used to be when Blockbuster was the big rooster in the hen house,” said Andy Cross, senior analyst with The Motley Fool.

Rooster in the hen house? What kind of hillbilly stuff is that?

I guess it beats, “We just take ’em one day at a time… “

Buying or selling?

As we enter the last week of June, thoughts typically turn to things like training for a fall marathon, the summer road racing circuit and the Tour de France (me); or the big Fourth of July picnic, the family vacation and which players from the local team will make the All-Star Game (normal people).

But the start of July also means selling and buying in the chic parlance for certain baseball clubs. In that regard, are the Phillies selling, buying or both? Even though they enter the homestand against the Reds and the hated New York Mets just three games off the pace in the NL East, it seems like a fair question.

Clearly the Phillies need pitching help and that fact has nothing to do with the statistics or anything else. It has to do with other types of numbers, such as the Phillies only have three starting pitchers with any real Major League experience and that glut in the rotation that once saw Jon Lieber and Brett Myers moved to the bullpen is gone.

It’s funny how that happens.

Nevertheless, the Phillies are facing a crucial portion of their schedule with Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick holding down spots in the rotation. With 13 games in 13 days and just one day off between now and the All-Star Break, the Phillies can probably get by with one of their arms in the minors, but chances are that won’t get them to the playoffs.

That means if the Phillies are serious about breaking the streak of Octobers spent at home, a trade should be in the offing.

But there are a lot of other teams looking for the same type of pitching as the Phillies, too. The Mets, for instance, are said to be looking to add an arm or two and will spend what it takes to do so – after all, simply making the playoffs is not an accomplishment for the Mets.

The Red Sox and Yankees will probably be foraging for some pitching as well, which means that if the Phillies want someone, say, like Mark Buehrle, it will cost them.

Maybe it will cost them something like Aaron Rowand.

Trading Rowand for pitching help didn’t seem like that huge of a deal at the beginning of the season, but now things have changed. For one thing it’s hard to say what type of pitcher Rowand could get for the Phillies, and for another thing, the centerfielder is the only right-handed hitting threat the team has.

If only they could trade Pat Burrell for something like reimbursement on the transportation to get him out of town…

While Rowand has rated at the top of the list amongst National League outfielders in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS, Burrell has been simply horrible. In 71 games Burrell is hitting .205 and is on pace to hit just 18 homers with 69 RBIs and to strike out 111 times. Since the start of May, Burrell is 21-for-133 (.158) with 13 extra-base hits and 31 strikeouts.

Worse, against lefties the right-handed Burrell is hitting just .155, so why Charlie Manuel continues to put him in the lineup is simply foolhardy.

Aside from the $13.25 million salary for this season, Burrell’s nearly non-existent production could end up costing the Phillies someone valuable like Aaron Rowand.

***
If you’re looking for the Phillies to go after Rangers’ reliever Eric Gagne to shore up the bullpen, stop right now. According to published reports, the Phillies are one a handful of teams on Gagne’s do-not-trade list.

***
Our current obsession, Floyd Landis, kicks off his book tour tomorrow with an appearance on the CBS Morning Show and Late Night with David Letterman. From there Floyd stays in Manhattan for a reading/signing at the Bryant Park Reading Room along with one-time CSN.com columnist John Eustice on June 27.

Also on the 27th, Floyd hits Ridgewood, N.J. before going to Huntington, N.Y. on the 28th.

Then comes the big stop… Lancaster!

There is a reason Led Zeppelin never came to Lancaster and it has nothing to do with the fact there wasn’t a venue big enough to accommodate them…

***
Speaking of the Tour, if I was pressed right now I’d predict Alexandre Vinokourov will win, but don’t sleep on Montana’s Levi Leipheimer.

Positively False review

As promised, here is the first of two reviews of Floyd Landis’, Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France. This review was written by my wife, Ellen Finger, who hijacked the book when it arrived fresh from the publicity staff at Simon & Schuster. Another review, by me, will follow though it’s clear that I have my work cut out for me trying to keep up with my wife.

Additionally, I’m still awaiting word from the Landis camp on his availability for an interview when he comes to Lancaster next week. Hopefully things can be worked out so that more dispatches about this interesting case can be written.

Anyway, here is the first of a series of who-knows-how-many stories from the Finger Family on Landis Avenue in Lancaster, Pa.

Review: Positively False
by Ellen Finger

Positively FalseAbout 10 years ago my future husband took me to downtown Lancaster to watch a professional bike race. I had never enjoyed riding my bicycle as a child. In fact, the first time my dad insisted I try to ride my pink, banana-seat bike without the training wheels I rode right into the back of a parked pick-up truck. Thus started my distaste for cycling. So when John insisted we watch the pros ride through our little city, I reluctantly agreed.

Watching the race from near the top of the Brunswick building on the corner of Queen and Chestnut streets, I got a taste of what attracts athletes to pro cycling – fearlessness, speed, risk, and a fierce competitive spirit. Although I don’t participate in activities unless I’ve made sure to control variables that pose risk, and have never enjoyed or succeeded at endeavors involving speed, I can relate to the competitive nature that bike jockeys need to possess to win. I like to win – or more accurately, I hate losing.

Which might explain why I was drawn to the copy of Floyd Landis’ book Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France that my husband received in the mail from the publisher a few days before its release date. All I knew about the man from Lancaster County (my home, too) was that he won the Tour de France last year after an amazing comeback, and then was accused of doping during the Tour. From the pictures of the back and front covers I could see that this man with the intense eyes and triumphant scowl hated losing, too.

Three days ago I sat down to thumb through the 306-page memoir and look at the pictures of Floyd’s childhood. Though I grew up only about ten miles from the Landis family, my suburban sprawl neighborhood close to the Park City mall was really a world away from Floyd’s conservative Mennonite home in Farmersville. Heck, I had never even heard of Farmersville until the summer of 2006.

What started out as a casual glance at his book became an almost obsessive need to read and learn more about the man and his mission. Between diaper changes, yardwork, grocery shopping, and other responsibilities of a wife and mother, I did nothing but read Floyd’s book. Obviously it’s not because of an interest in cycling, but I do enjoy sports and nonfiction books. I initially was curious to find connections between my life and upbringing in Lancaster and Floyd’s. Eventually, though, I realized I was reading to find the truth. I, like many people, assumed that someone whose urine test reveals a level of testosterone that is significantly elevated is definitely a cheater. I follow rules, always have. Cheaters and liars, especially ones who get paid a lot of money for playing sports, make me sick. But something about this man, this brash, outspoken man who still looks like most of the Mennonite and Amish boys I see occasionally when I drive through eastern Lancaster County, made me want to look beyond the seemingly logical conclusion (his miraculous performance in Stage 17 of the Tour had to have been due to performance-enhancing drugs, right?) to see if there was more to the story.

Before I could really delve into the myriad of scientific detail, political absurdity, and tales of athletic glory, I had to admit something to myself. One thing that has always bothered me about men who spend their lives playing games is that it ultimately seems like an incredibly selfish pursuit. The older I get the more I feel like my life is not my own. I am constantly thinking about working a full-time job for someone, taking care of someone, cleaning up after someone, or saving money to buy food, clothes, or diapers for someone else. Floyd even admits in his book that he “put training first, even before (his) family. When you want to win, you eat, drink, sleep and breathe cycling.” Well, I want to win when I play, too, but who has time for games? I know, I know, professional cycling isn’t just a sport, it’s a job. And it’s a well-paying one for athletes like Landis, at least after many years of toiling as an amateur and then an underpaid professional domestique (servant to a cycling champion like Lance Armstrong). But, I just can’t understand the need of some men to spend months away from loved ones and pass their time alternating between grueling training and zombie-like resting. Maybe I’m jealous of their apparent luxuries, maybe I will never realize my full potential as in individual, or maybe I’m just a grown-up.

As I read I realized that I believe Floyd Landis. Not only has the man spent almost all of his money trying to mount a defense against doping charges and has made his fight very public, as opposed to those swollen (by that I’m referring to their synthetically-enhanced muscles AND egos) arrogant baseball players testifying before Congress with apparent memory problems, but also he has brought to light the extremely screwed-up anti-doping agencies that exist here in the U.S. and around the world. I’m not sure how much of our taxpayers’ money and legislators’ time should be spent revamping an obviously corrupt system, but something needs to be done. If our government funds the USADA (America’s relatively young sports anti-doping agency) it does so without really having any idea how the organization operates.

And if they do, Congress is guilty, too. But I suspect that the same kinds of minds that wrote and sold the brilliantly-titled law No Child Left Behind (which might be leading to better performance on hardly standardized tests while dampening a desire for real learning and teaching in our increasingly stressed out schools) also championed the anti-drug movement that supposedly is trying to clean up sports. The problem is that most senators and representatives never have time to really read about or follow up on the intricacies of the legislation they pass. They hear convincing sound bites (who wouldn’t want to rid professional sports of cheaters and druggies and who WOULD want to leave a child behind?) and hope for the best. But Landis reveals in great detail how duped – not doped – we all are about the injustices these government-sponsored agencies have quietly inflicted on athletes, particularly in cycling. I was shocked and appalled to learn that the people who test the urine of pro athletes, the people who bring doping charges against athletes, the people who prosecute accused athletes, and the people who judge the fates of these same athletes – they all work for the same agencies. How un-American is that? Even my fourth graders know that there must be a system of checks and balances to ensure that justice prevails.

So there it is. I really don’t care about cycling. The ridiculous dichotomy of rigorous training coupled with slovenly relaxation, as well as the complicated team dynamics of cycling, and the unwritten rules of the peloton that result in good athletes having to sacrifice their own efforts to protect the diva-like team leader are foreign concepts to me.

But I desire for truth and for justice. Good people should win. Hard work should be rewarded. Incompetence (as so obviously displayed by French drug labs) and corruption (the USADA and WADA come to mind) and selfishness (UCI is guilty here) should have no place in our society, but they do. Floyd Landis won the Tour de France. I hope he can race again. But mostly I hope finds some satisfaction knowing that his most important and biggest uphill climb will be to bring awareness and hopefully, change, to one kind of injustice plaguing America today. Despite what his parents thought, and may still think, about the perils of a life spent outside of their pious community, I hope they know that their boy still knows right from wrong.

Good call

The Phillies announced that John Vukovich would be the lone inductee into the team’s Wall of Fame this year. Upon the briefest of retrospect, this is the absolute perfect thing to do. Over the past two decades Vukovich had the most indelible influence on the franchise, and this is a good thing.

Initially, I wrote how Gene Mauch, Jim Konstanty and Darren Daulton were my choices for the Wall of Fame, but voting in Vuke and just Vuke was the right way to go.

The Phillies said Vukovich’s wife Bonnie, daughter Nicole and son Vince will accept Vuke’s induction.

“I started crying when David [Montgomery] called me,” Bonnie said in a statement issued by the team. “I called John’s brothers right away and they started crying. I’m so thrilled for John that he’ll be on that wall forever. When the granddaughters are grown, I can take them there and show them their grandfather. That will be so special.”

At the very least, Vuke deserves the stage all to himself. It’s just too bad he couldn’t be here to grumble about it.

***
Speaking of grumbling, Jason Giambi has reached an agreement to talk to the former Senator George Mitchell for his investigation of baseball’s doping problem. According to reports, Giambi was ordered by Commissioner Bud Selig to talk to Mitchell or face suspension, which seems kind of odd.

It’s odd because Giambi was being threatened by the commissioner for apologizing to the fans for the so-called “Steroid Era” of baseball. Apparently, being the commissioner of baseball or one of its owners, players or managers means you never have to apologize.

In that regard Giambi should have known better.

Nevertheless, there are people far smarter than me writing more in-depth and correct-thinking analyses of the Giambi issue, so we’ll just leave it at this:

If Giambi is truly sorry and baseball is really serious about wiping doping out of the sport, then they should hope that Giambi sings. They should hope he sings like a hyperactive canary or mafia stool pigeon with immunity and nothing to lose.

He should sing like Luciano Pavarotti.

Why? Simple… like cycling, baseball needs to destroy itself in order to safe itself. Actually, that’s only if MLB is truly serious about doping and, sadly, I suspect they are not.

Why should they be? The game has never been healthier financially. More people go to the park than ever and there are several games on TV every night. Exposure, revenues and interest is at an all-time high so why would the commissioner do anything stupid like make sure the players aren’t doping?

In a column written for ESPN the Magazine, former professional cyclist Jonathan Vaughters — a former domestique for Lance Armstrong on the USPS teams and now director of the Slipstream/Chipotle cycling team — writes admissions are a good thing. Citing Bjarne Riis’ revelation that he took EPO during his Tour de France victory in 1996, Vaughters wrote that he thought it would be the confession that not only cleaned up cycling, but also all sports. He then noted that professional cycling conducts 12,000 drug tests a year and even suspected dopers are suspended. In fact two of the most talented riders – Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso (the equivalent to Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in terms of notability in cycling) – were banned despite neither testing positive. Actually, Basso admitted to “attempted doping and that while he had not actually undergone doping, he was “fully aware that an attempt at doping is tantamount to doping” and that “[he would] serve [his] suspension…”

Vaughters wrote:

If baseball followed our rules, Bonds’ chase for No. 756 would have been over long ago. On the other hand, if cycling tested athletes the way the NFL and MLB do, no rider would ever turn up positive. Sure, cycling has had its own yellow wall of silence: Any rider who spoke out about drug use was forced from the peloton. But the wall is crumbling, and the sport will be better for it.

Vaughters is absolutely correct.

Warm up those pipes, Jason. Sing away.

***
Speaking of singing, the copy of Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France, that arrived last night direct from the good folks at Simon & Schuster, was hijacked by my wife this morning. As a girl from Manheim Township, my wife appears riveted by a fellow Lancaster Countian’s story and is already more than three-quarters through the book.

I’m going to venture that it will be the first time that she has ever finished reading a book before its actual release date.

Nevertheless, look for my review by Monday or Tuesday. Maybe I can coax one out of her, too.

***
The Phillies move on to St. Louis after three days in Cleveland. Better yet, the three pitchers they are expected to face this weekend have a combined record of 7-25…

As far as the city of St. Louis goes, I can’t say I’ve ever really been there except for the airport. However, in talking to a bunch of the scribes, St. Louis and Cincinnati are the least favorite stops on the circuit, though the saving grace for the Gateway City seems to be the riverboat casinos.

My least favorite stop on the circuit? Philadelphia…

Come on – I kid, I kid.

Actually, I don’t have a least favorite stop. Even Shea and RFK have a certain charm.

Try to mix in a few strikes…

OK. Admit it. At the start of the season how many of the Phillies fans out there thought that on June 20 that Freddy Garcia and Kyle Kendrick would have the exact same amount of wins?

Actually, let’s rephrase that to something else…

At the start of the season how many Phillies fans knew who Kyle Kendrick was? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “Not many.”

Believe it or not, Kendrick might have some advantages over Garcia when taking the mound against big leaguers despite only pitching in 12 games above Single-A. First of all, Kendrick, just 22, is a mystery to the opposition. Like Phillies fans, the Tigers and Indians probably never even heard of the slender right-hander until he took the mound. That definitely gives the pitcher an advantage.

Secondly, Kendrick isn’t attempting to pitch with an injury unlike Garcia was. That makes a bit of difference, too.

Thirdly, and most importantly, Kendrick throws strikes. In his two outings Kendrick has had a 0-1 count on 22 on of the 50 hitters he has faced. As a result, opponents have hit just .239 against the young righty, compared to .318 off Garcia.

How about this one:

Garcia pitched at least six innings in four of his 11 starts. Kendrick is two-for-two.

See what happens when a healthy pitcher no one has heard of throws strikes?

***
Perhaps even more important than all of it – the health, the strikes and unfamiliarity – is that Kendrick has some fielders making the plays behind him. According to CSN resident honcho, Rob Kuestner, the Phillies were flashing the leather behind the kid. Nope, that’s not a cliché, either, because Rob introduced that bit of vernacular to our popular lexicon.

To that I say half of good pitching is good defense. Don’t believe me? How about a story proving this to be the case from the paper of record? According to a story in The New York Times by Dan Rosenheck, the statistical posse has showed that good pitchers are just as likely to be lucky as good.

How about this line from last night:

9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 92 pitches – 57 strikes.

That’s what Johan Santana did to the Mets in a 9-0 victory last night. Is that lucky or good?

***
According to reports, 1994 called and wanted its facial hair trend back from Geoff Geary.

Come on… I kid. I kid.

***
Here’s the nicest thing anyone could say about an athlete/celebrity: “He gets it.”

Jim Furyk is one of those guys who gets it.

As one of the top golfers in the world, Furyk could very easily wall himself away from everyone and everything. He could hire an army of publicists and managers whose main job was to tell other people “no” and then be sycophants.

Certainly there are less talented and less accomplished folks than Furyk who have done just that. But the thing about Furyk is that he remembers where he came from. He knows that if it all ends tomorrow and he can’t play golf ever again, the folks who helped him on his way up will be the ones there for him on the road back down.

The guys who get it know that.

So despite the Ryder Cups and the top 10 finishes at all of the major tournaments, Furyk takes time out for the local press. He returns to the area for clinics and exhibitions and sometimes he even brings some of his famous friends. At the same time he hasn’t forgotten his friends from school, either, even though he doesn’t have to do any of it.

He does because he gets it.

It seems as if Floyd Landis, the star-crossed winner of the 2006 Tour de France gets that, too. Like Furyk, Landis appears to have a little army of friends from the old days ready to protect him. Certainly Floyd and Furyk have different issues right now, but taking care of your roots doesn’t seem to be a problem for either of them.

No, the last few paragraphs have nothing to do with anything, but sometimes I just feel like giving credit where it’s due.

***
Speaking of Floyd, the good folks at Simon & Schuster sent me a copy of his book and I should be diving in by the weekend. As promised, I will give the tome a full review.

***
If you’re like me, a good vacation would be one where you load the car up with some nice, expensive gasoline, load everyone in, tune up the iPod to the stereo and hit the road. Because of that, the Frugal Travel series in The Times has been quite riveting.

Check it out.

A sort of homecoming

Hola, sports fans. There is a lot happening today from the Tigers arriving in Philadelphia for three games, to Freddy Garcia’s shutdown, to the U.S. Open, to the first reviews of author Floyd Landis’ soon-to-be released memoir, Positively False hitting the ether. Since that’s the case, enough yapping – let’s get into it…

Undoubtedly, Charlie Manuel will face some scrutiny this weekend. The reason, of course, is because the American League champion Detroit Tigers are in town for the weekend and that means Jim Leyland is here. Leyland, as most Phillies fans remember, lost out on the managerial job here when then general manager Ed Wade decided to hire Manuel instead. At the time the thinking (at least by me) was that when Jim Leyland specifically campaigns for your job opening, chances are it’s a slam dunk.

How do you pass on Jim Leyland?

Well…

Manuel is in his third star-crossed season with the Phillies, while Leyland, in just one season, turned the Tigers to a World Series team after 12 straight losing seasons. In 2003 the Tigers lost 113 games. In 2006, with Leyland in charge, the Tigers won 103 games, including the playoffs.

Leyland, in these parts, gets a lot of the credit for turning the Tigers into a force in the American League. To degree Leyland definitely had some influence on making Detroit a winner, though it is much more complicated than that. Yes, a manager has an effect on a baseball team. And it really isn’t a surprise that the Phillies have been better with Charlie Manuel at the helm than they were with Larry Bowa.

Leyland and Manuel are similar in that they make it easy for players to want to come to work and do the job as well as possible, while Bowa’s mission seemed to be one of divide and conquer. As was the adage during Bowa’s time, the Phillies are 0-76, but Bowa is 86-0.

But one thing Leyland did not do was sign and develop the players. The rotation of Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, Nate Robertson, and Mike Maroth would have been great regardless of the manager. Nor does it hurt that the offense leads the American League in hits, runs, extra-base hits, batting average, slugging percentage and is third in home runs.

Certainly the Phillies will know where they stand amongst baseball’s top teams when the Tigers leave on Sunday afternoon.

But more interesting than Leyland’s arrival is Placido Polanco’s return to Philadelphia. Polanco, as most remember, was the Phillies’ steady second baseman that allowed the team to take its time in bringing along Chase Utley. In fact, even when Utley was ready to play every day, putting Polanco on the bench was a very difficult thing to do. In order to find more playing time for Polanco the Phillies used him in left field for a few games, but not nearly enough at third base.

Third base was the position Polanco played when he was traded to the Phillies as part of the deal for Scott Rolen in 2002. But after playing 131 games at third in 2002, Polanco played just 42 games at the hot corner since then. For some reason the Phillies just weren’t willing to unseat David Bell from that spot. The Phillies definitely would have been a better team with an infield of Ryan Howard, Utley, Polanco and Jimmy Rollins, but sometimes things are as easy as simply sliding around names.

Baseball is complicated like that sometimes.

The “what if” game is the favorite past time of the national past time, and though Utley has solidified himself as the best second baseman in the National League, Polanco has done pretty well since leaving town. Currently he’s third in the league with a .343 batting average, led the Majors in the statistic in 2005 and, most importantly, took home the MVP in last October’s ALCS.

Polanco will gladly let Chase Utley and David Bell have Philadelphia if can play ball in October. The same goes for Charlie Manuel, too. As far as Leyland is concerned, losing out on the Phillies job might have been the best thing that happened.

***
Anyway, based on how things were at the time, trading Polanco to the Tigers for Ugeuth Urbina and Ramon Martinez was a pretty good deal. Then, as now, the Phillies were desperate for bullpen help and Polanco was the only real commodity the team had.

To this day I still get emails from readers asking why Wade and the Phillies didn’t trade Bell instead… OK.

Look at it this way – if you don’t want David Bell, what makes you think another team will want him and then give you a relief pitcher like Urbina? The Phillies couldn’t trade Bell for the same reason why they can’t trade Jon Lieber or Pat Burrell…

No one wants them!

Apropos of nothing, it seems as if both Utley and Polanco will be starting in the All-Star Game next month.

***
I wasn’t quick enough to think of it at the time, but Freddy Garcia could end up being the “deadline deal” the Phillies need if they are still in the hunt next month… that is, of course, if Garcia can still pitch.

There is no time table for when Garcia will even throw again, so any plans regarding his return are just a silly exercise at this point. But… he might be able to return.

***
Through the early going of action in the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in western Pennsylvania, it looked as if Jim Furyk of the Bellair neighborhood in Manheim Township, Lancaster, Pa., was locked in. But then his putter deserted him over the final seven holes. Today Furyk came out and fired a not-so sterling 75 to leave him six-over par.

Despite the score, Furyk still has a shot at winning his second U.S. Open title. Tiger Woods is in it, too, at four-over par, which brings up an interesting point:

Do golf fans want to see the best players in the world struggle to get close to even par as it typically is in the U.S. Open?

Do fans like to see Furyk or Tiger hit a stellar shot near the pin and then have it roll off the green and into the rough?

I’m torn. I don’t like it when a golfer makes a good shot and isn’t rewarded for it, but at the same time I don’t really want to see them take target practice at the pins as if they were at any other course. That’s no fun, either.

Either way, the U.S. Open is the most intriguing of all golf tournaments and it will be even more interesting to see what happens to this little corner of the country when it comes to Merion in Ardmore in 2013.

For one thing, something is going to have to be done about the atrocity that is the Schuylkill Expressway.

***
The New York Times ran a review of West Earl Township, Lancaster County, Pa. native Floyd Landis’ new epic that hits bookstores June 26. In the review it is noted that there is very little new information in the book, however, it was noted that there was a contradiction in some of Landis’ statements about the consequences from the infamous testimony from former Tour de France champ Greg LeMond from the USADA arbitration hearings last month.

To wit:

In an epilogue, Landis writes that he witnessed Geoghegan’s phone call and was shocked by his manager’s attempt to intimidate LeMond by bringing up LeMond’s previously undisclosed history of being sexually abused as a child. So shocked, he writes, that he immediately decided Geoghegan should be fired.

“The only thing I knew right away was that Will needed to go,” Landis writes. “I went to his room and helped him pack his things.

Wait, did Floyd get the same guy who wrote Charles Barkley’s memoirs to work on his?

Regardless, an interesting note is that Floyd is releasing a “Wiki” defense e-book on the same day as the memoirs are released.

Also, I read the first chapter that was previewed on Floyd’s site and it’s pretty much the boilerplate jock autobiography except that I drive past a lot of the places described in the book on my way to Philadelphia. In that regard it’s more interesting simply because I may have driven past some of the places described. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, though Landis and I grew up a short bike ride away from one another, our worlds were as different as night and day. Frankly, even though my roots have been planted in Lancaster since I was 10 years old, it is very rare for me to see an Amish buggy motor past. They don’t really come to the urban/suburban area where I live and when they do it trips me out.

Come on, Mr. Stoltzfus, turn on a light already.

Nevertheless, it was interesting reading about a rube from Lancaster County travelling across the country with a cheap car and a tent and then to Europe with the simple hope of being a professional mountain bike rider.

Hopefully my fax request for an advance copy will arrive soon so I can tell everyone all about it.

***
If they have an NBA Finals and nobody watches it, did it really happen?

Apparently the NBA Finals ended this week. Really? And what ever happened to that fun league called the NHL?

Easy like Sunday morning…

Easily the best thing about Jon Lieber’s complete game, three-hit shutout over the Kansas City Royals last night wasn’t the Phillies’ victory or the pitcher’s relative gabfest post-game chat with the scribes. Nope, easily the most important part of Lieber’s outing was the time of game:

Two-hours, ten minutes. That’s 2:10.

That is outstanding.

With deadlines and the pressure to compose coherent stories closing in on the writers like the walls in that trash compactor scene in Star Wars, it’s nice to see the gang get a little break. After all, without the writers covering the team leading the way, the folks on TV and the radio wouldn’t have anything to talk about.

So big thanks goes out to Jon Lieber for his uber-efficient outing last night…

He must really like the writers.

Nevertheless, Lieber spent some time talking to the broadcasters after the game and had a few interesting things to say. One nugget he later reiterated with the writers was that he was feeling good while pitching, but because he’s such a location-type pitcher, he’s been getting tattooed a bit lately.

“I know it’s been, ‘Here we go again. He’s pitching like it’s 2006.’ I’m not even close to that,” Lieber told the scribes. “The results can be deceiving, especially if you watch the game. I don’t think I’ve done anything differently. It’s just being able to throw the ball, get strikes, pitch ahead, and get the guys on and off the field.”

He certainly did a swell job of the last night. In fact, it seems as if Lieber got everyone out of the ballpark before the sun went down. Not bad for a 6:05 p.m. start time.

Apropos of nothing, does anyone think Lieber’s new buzz cut makes him look like Brando as Colonel Kurtz?

***
There has been much speculation regarding the end of The Sopranos series tonight on HBO. Is Tony going to live or die? Will he flip to the feds or come out ahead in the war with New York?

Visit any message board and there are tons of theories and ideas floating around though I’m not really sure they’re based on anything tangential. Because show creator David Chase never ever wastes anything on his show (all dialogue and music has explicit meaning to the plot) anything could happen tonight.

That means I have no idea what will happen, though it’s hard not to think about an interview I read with Little Steven Van Zandt (Silvio Dante) where he said a movie based on The Sopranos series would have to be a pre-queal.

But it’s no fun not predicting anything. In that regard, I say watch out for Janice. Everyone seems to be forgetting her and she’s could be trouble.

***
Jim Thome returns to Philadelphia tomorrow.

***
The big bike race is underway in Philadelphia today, and the Tour de France kicks off on July 8. Nonetheless, we neglected to update on Floyd Landis’ first outing since last year’s Tour de France and his hip-replacement surgery in the Teva Mountain Games. There, riding a mountain bike (of course), Floyd finished an 49th in a two-hour ride through the mountains in Vail, Colorado.

“I haven’t suffered in a while,” he said when it was over, happy he simply finished his first mountain-bike race in nearly nine years. “I figured this was a good place to start.”

Without a much of a chance to train or work out with arbitration hearing in full swing, Landis will race again in Leadville, Colorado in August in the well-known Leadville 100. But that race will come after a book signing tour that will bring him home to Lancaster and to West Chester later this month.

Meanwhile, listen to Floyd talk about his first public ride in nearly a year.

Waiting for the Friday storm

Barry Bonds, as we all know, is in town for four games this weekend. But frankly, that shouldn’t be the drawing card to the Phillies-Giants series. The big deal should be the pitching matchups, most notably Cole Hamels vs. Noah Lowry on Saturday night; the resurgent Freddy Garcia against rookie Tim Lincecum on Sunday afternoon; and Silent Jon Lieber matched up against former AL Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito in Monday afternoon’s finale.

For folks who like baseball, pitching is the most fascinating part of the game, and there are few pitchers as interesting as Cole Hamels and Barry Zito.

***
The New York tabloids are all abuzz about a well-known baseball figure hitting the town and living it up, and no, it’s not Alex Rodriguez.

Would you believe it’s Mr. Met?

Don’t tell me the Phillies and the Phanatic are trailing the Mets and Mr. Met in on the nightlife side of things, too? Does Pat Burrell have to carry this team?

***
Speaking of fun times, Mr. Fun, Floyd Landis, is ready to return to bike racing tomorrow at the Teva Outdoor Games mountain bike race. Since this is not a sanctioned event, Landis is eligible to race despite facing a two-year ban for alleged doping in last year’s Tour de France.

The race will be Floyd’s first time out since winning the Tour de France last July and then undergoing hip-replacement surgery 10 months ago.

Better yet, Floyd will be in Lancaster and West Chester in the next few weeks hawking his new book, Positively False. He’ll be at the Barnes & Noble in Lancaster (I’m not giving the address because there is only one Barnes & Noble in Lancaster) on June 29 at 7 p.m. and at the Chester County Book & Music Co. on Paoli Pike in West Chester on July 2.

I doubt he’ll offer a reading or do anything more than the grip-grin-and-sign routine, but I would assume there isn’t anything new in the book that Landis and his camp didn’t reveal at his arbitration hearing a couple of weeks ago.

Well, I doubt the Greg LeMond stuff is in there.

Anyway, I’m still waiting for Landis’ publisher to send a copy to me (c/o Comcast SportsNet, Wachovia Center, 3601 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19148 or my Lancaster address… it’s out there) so I can give it the proper review it deserves.

Pete Rose and Rodale didn’t mind sending one out
, so I’m sure a fellow Lancaster Countian will oblige.

Meanwhile, don’t forget about the big 2007 Men’s Pro Cycling Tour hits The Lanc on Sunday afternoon. So far I’ve heard very little hostility about the race hitting the downtown area, but it’s still early.

Then again, maybe Queen Street will turn into a scaled down version of the Manayunk Wall?

***
I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Mike Gill of ESPN Radio 1450 in Atlantic City again yesterday afternoon. For a kid who spent the first seven years of my school career going through intensive speech therapy which including sessions at Easter Seals in Washington, D.C., I’ve come a long way if I do say so myself.

Apparently, people tell me I used to sound like Daffy Duck when I was a kid. I guess that’s a mean thing to say, but we all laugh about it now.

Anyway, I talked to Mike on my phone while standing along the banks of a small country stream in the outer edges of the Dutch Wonderland amusement park (when you have a 3-year old, you get a season pass and prepare to ride the Turtle Whirl a lot), when a big fish – maybe a carp – leapt out of the water at a bird. I believe we were talking about Ryan Howard at the time and wasn’t sure if it would be proper to bring up what I saw, but anyway, I saw a fish jump at a bird.

No, I don’t get out much.

It’s not the science, it’s the circus

Most nights my ride home the ballpark can be a pain. Firstly there is the Schuylkill, which quite possibly could be the worst stretch of paved road in the world. On top of the Surekill, there is some construction linking the Expressway near Valley Forge to the Turnpike that makes the 24 Hours of Le Mans look like a Sunday drive through the country.

Finally, there’s the distance, which comes to approximately three hours round trip. Sometimes the drive can be quite taxing, but I guess it’s my fault for living out in the middle of nowhere. That said, it’s much nicer here than in any of the neighborhoods that I surely would be priced out of – it’s a little slow to adapt to modernity or new ideas out here, but at least the sprawl has been fairly well contained (in comparison) for the time being.

Anyway, the drive back to the boondocks gives me plenty of time to listen to a bunch of the podcasts I subscribe to. A favorite is a radio show based out of San Diego called The Competitors Radio Show, hosted by former world class triathletes Bob Babbitt and Paul Huddle. Needless to say the show focuses on endurance sports like triathlons, running and cycling, which for geeks like me is really fascinating. As far as I can tell, Babbitt and Huddle host the only show like The Competitors and that’s a shame.

So while driving home on Friday night I listened to a rebroadcast of an interview with Greg LeMond, the three-time champion and first American winner of the Tour de France. LeMond is the man who put cycling in the U.S. on the map. In places like Philadelphia and Lancaster, cycling (and running) are mainstream participatory sports that exploded after LeMond won his first Tour in 1986. But frankly, that’s about all I knew about LeMond. Sure, I had heard about the comments regarding Lance Armstrong and now Floyd Landis, but it really didn’t seem like much of a big deal.

Isn’t every cyclist suspected of doping these days?

Still, some had written LeMond off as a bitter jerk since his record in France had been broken. No one seemed to notice when LeMond said Armstrong’s record run was the best thing the ever happened to cycling. But in July 2004 when LeMond said that “If Armstrong’s clean, it’s the greatest comeback. And if he’s not, then it’s the greatest fraud,” well, that made all the papers.

LeMond is right, of course, but you know…

Regardless, during the interview LeMond explained he realized doping took a firm grip on cycling when guys he never heard of rode by him like he was standing still – and he was in the best shape of his life with three Tour de France titles. Listening to LeMond it sounds as if cycling and baseball hit the doping era at the same time with similar results. While no-name riders were doing wheelies by the best rider in the world, the 50-homer plateau was topped 22 times from 1996 to now. From 1977 to 1995, one player hit 50 homers. Meanwhile, from 1961, when Roger Maris beat Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record, to 1996, only three players hit 50 homers in a season.

From listening to LeMond it sounded as if all cyclists Brady Andersons were slugging 50 homers every year.

LeMond also revealed that during Floyd Landis’ ride for the Tour de France title it appeared as if the statistics were back to normal. He noted that he was withholding judgment about the defending champion (for now), and that he had a confidential conversation with Landis that he was going to keep private. This interview was originally recorded last August.

Needless to say, a lot has changed since then.

Dressed in another bold, yellow tie with a dark suit, Floyd Landis faced cross-examination on Tuesday in the USADA arbitration hearing. It is from the those hearings at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. where it will be determined whether or not the Lancaster County native gets to keep his Tour de France title or becomes the first rider in the long history of the race to be stripped of his yellow clothing.

Oddly, though, a majority of the questions Landis faced were regarding LeMond and his role in a potential witness tampering, which bordered on obscene and insane. Instead of answering questions about whether he used performance-enhancing drugs during the now infamous 17th stage of last summer’s Tour de France, Landis had to explain his actions regarding Will Geoghegan, his “friend” and former representative who threatened LeMond by telephone last week by threatening to reveal that LeMond had been sexual abused of which as a child, and which only Landis knew about.

From Eddie Pells of the Associated Press:
“Would you agree, that as my mother used to say, that a person’s character is revealed more by their actions than their words?” U.S. Anti-Doping Agency attorney Matthew Barnett asked Landis.

“It sounds like a good saying,” Landis said.

Then, it got ugly, as Barnett dredged up events surrounding testimony LeMond gave last Thursday. On that day, the three-time Tour champion testified he’d received a phone call the night before from Landis’ manager, Will Geoghegan, who threatened to divulge LeMond’s secret.

USADA lawyers cross-examined Landis about everything from the color of his tie to the timing of his decision to fire his manager.

Barnett tried to portray Landis and Geoghegan as scheming together to keep LeMond from testifying, then not showing remorse until they got caught.

Landis said that although he was sitting near Geoghegan when the manager made the call last Wednesday night, he didn’t know what was going on until later.

Barnett tried to pin him down on when, exactly, he told his attorneys of the call, and why he waited to fire Geoghegan until after LeMond revealed details of the call on the witness stand.

Landis testified that he told his attorneys about the call as soon as he arrived to the hearing room Thursday, though nobody thought to fire Geoghegan until after LeMond’s testimony.

“In hindsight, I probably should have fired him immediately, but I needed someone to talk to,” Landis said.

USADA attorneys tried to portray Landis as an active participant in the LeMond plan. They pointed to his wardrobe that day — a black suit with a black tie instead of the yellow tie he’s worn every other day of the hearing — as evidence that he had it in for LeMond.

“That’s why I wore the black suit, because it was a terrible thing that happened,” Landis said. “It wasn’t a thing to celebrate by wearing a yellow tie.”

Was the black tie symbolic support for LeMond?

“No. It was a disaster. Nothing good could come out of that day,” Landis said.

Landis was also questioned about some unflattering Internet postings where he called LeMond a “pathetic human,” though didn’t seem to face much heat when it came to discussing doping.

The focus, as it appears, will be on the circus and not the science. That shouldn’t be too surprising, though. Credibility is the real issue in the arbitration hearing and to most folks it doesn’t seem as if Landis has any no matter what the science might say.

Why? Will Geoghegan, of course.

My mother used to say that a person is known by the company they keep. Or, as Rocky Balboa said in the original film, “If you have knucklehead friends, people will think you are a knucklehead.”

It’s difficult argue with that logic.

Look, we want to give Landis the benefit of the doubt and it seems like something is amiss with the tests and the ratios and everything involved in the epic ride to the Tour de France victory that should have been the best sports story of the year. But if Floyd is so willing to get down and dirty with a seemingly scorched earth attack where something as horrible as sexual abuse of a child is fair game.

Certainly Geoghegan was the one who made the calls to LeMond and Floyd said he was embarrassed by it all – but he didn’t do anything about it when it happened. To me that makes Landis complicit.

According to Lee Jenkins’ story in The New York Times:

Landis and Geoghegan were clearly close. Landis said he gave Geoghegan all of his phone numbers, including LeMond’s. And Landis told Geoghegan that LeMond had been sexually abused as a child, after LeMond shared that secret with Landis.

Landis’s choice of friends and clothes were both on trial Tuesday. Barnett asked Landis why he showed up in court for LeMond’s testimony Thursday wearing all black, when he showed up the other days in much brighter colors. Landis has an obvious preference for yellow ties, evoking the yellow jersey worn by the Tour de France leader.

Through it all, watching from the gallery were Paul and Arlene Landis, the Mennonite parents of the most notorious bike rider in history. I wonder what they were thinking?

For the best recaps of the arbitration hearing, check out Trust But Verify, Steroid Nation and ESPN’s page of stories. Better yet, check out The Competitors Radio Show interview with San Diego Times-Union writer, Mark Zeigler. Good stuff.

***
Meanwhile, in baseball Jason Giambi says baseball owes the fans an apology for something and MLB wants to investigate. I guess being in baseball means you never have to apologize?

***
Tomorrow: Back to Baseball.

Stay tuned…

Tomorrow I will write an entire post about Floyd Landis, Greg LeMond, Falcon Crest and the latest in the USADA’s arbitration case against the current Tour de France champ. I’d write about it today, but I really need to let my head to stop spinning so I can figure out what the hell just happened there…

Talk about a plot twist.

Anyway, for all your up-to-date information on the streaker at yesterday’s Brewers-Phillies game in South Philly, I direct you to The Zo Zone, where our man Todd Zolecki takes you inside the mind of a public nudist that is so organic that it almost makes you want to double check to see if you haven’t accidentally lost something.

Every day is game day

The good thing about baseball is that anytime you need to take a day or two away, the game will be there when you get back. Baseball is not like the second part of a movie or an episodic television show where a person needs to keep up with the back story in order to enjoy it. Sure, it helps, but it’s not really necessary.

It is just baseball after all.

So after taking a few days away from following the baseball team to travel around with my family, it’s pretty easy to jump back in. The Phillies are still fighting to get back to .500, the bullpen is still a question mark and Ryan Howard’s struggles continue when he was sent to the 15-day disabled list with a strained quad and a sore knee.

As the season progresses the Phillies should continue to be a team of streaks and should win more than they lose. The bullpen, unless Pat Gillick can make a deal to get some help, will remain a sore spot. And Ryan Howard will continue to have trouble with his knees and legs until he gets in shape.

It’s pretty simple.

Howard, as he says and everyone noticed when he was a minor leaguer, is a big dude. But when he showed up in Clearwater for spring training he was an even bigger dude. Frankly, he looks soft and it’s funny to see him and remember that some speculated that he could have used performance-enhancing drugs during his breakout season last year. If he was taking steroids, it was pointed out then; he was taking the wrong kind.

Certainly baseball is littered with the failed careers of players who simply couldn’t keep in shape. Along those lines, many more careers were cut short for the same reason. In that regard, John Kruk comes to mind. Greg Luzinski, too. Mo Vaughn was another slugging first baseman whose injuries seemed rooted in his lack of fitness.

The good folks at Baseball Prospectus took note of Howard’s physique when putting together their annual yearbook in which they surmised that Howard, at 26, could be peaking:

Historically, players like Howard, big-bodied guys with limited defensive skills such as Mo Vaughn and Boog Powell, tended to have high but brief peak periods. Their legs just couldn’t carry that much mass for very long, and around 30 their defense plummeted, their playing time dropped due to nagging injuries, and their singles dried up and disappeared. The Phillies should have a three-year window in which they can expect this kind of production from Howard, but should not plan beyond that.

Mo Vaughn was washed up at 34. Greg Luzinski played his last season when he was 33. John Kruk walked away for a pinch runner after getting a single in a late July game for the Chicago White Sox when he was 34. Their bodies just couldn’t take the rigors of a baseball season any more.

Ryan Howard is a big dude looking for an even bigger paycheck. A good way to get to where he and the Phillies need him to be is to get in shape.

***
Chris Coste took Howard’s place on the roster when he was placed on the disabled list. But unlike last May when Coste’s call-up led to a nearly a full season of MLB service time, don’t expect this stint to last too long. The talk around the club is that Coste will go back to Triple-A Ottawa when Howard is ready.

Then again, no one expected his stay to last too long last year, either.

***
I have a theory that if baseball or soccer were introduced to Americans in 2007 with no prior knowledge of its existence, people would hate it. Baseball, more than any other sport, seems to be one that’s passed down from father to son or whomever – and yes, that’s as close to getting all Field of Dreams on anyone. That crap is just so annoying…

Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that Major League Baseball isn’t exactly a flashpoint with folks involved in the endurance sporting world. In fact, the runners, cyclists and triathletes that I’m friendly with don’t really keep up with more than one of the major sports – typically that one is football or hockey.

To a lot of them, a baseball game is a good way to wile away an afternoon with some junk food and a beer or two following a hard training session.

So when Outside magazine – billed as a periodical “dedicated to covering the people, sports and activities, politics, art, literature, and hardware of the outdoors…” – offered a small feature on a baseball player in its June issue…

Whoa.

The player, of course, is Barry Zito and the feature (an interview) didn’t cover much ground or space. The topics ranged from surfing and how it has helped Zito with his pitching, to meditation and yoga, which Zito is a well-known practitioner of.

An excerpt:

Question: You also do yoga and meditate, which has led the baseball press to label you as flaky.

Zito: The most outdoorsy these guys get is playing golf or hunting. So if I play guitar or surf or do yoga, I’m some weirdo. But you have to take it for what it is. Baseball is one of the oldest games in the country. There are definitely stereotypes, but I think we’re breaking through those things.

Given the choice of a DVD of Point Break or The Natural, Zito says he’d take Point Break.

Now that’s weird. The yoga and meditation is hardly anything unoriginal or flaky. It’s smart.

***
I’d love to write much more about the Floyd Landis arbitration hearing, but I’m pacing myself. Interestingly, though, I thought the yellow tie Landis wore to yesterday’s hearing was a nice touch and sent a bit of a message.

Yellow, of course, being the color of jersey the leader (and winner) of the Tour de France wears.

Another interesting point came from Juliet Macur of The New York Times:

TOMORROW, the American cyclist Floyd Landis, the would-be heir to Lance Armstrong, steps before an arbitration panel in California to rebut the charge that his come-from-behind victory last year in cycling’s most celebrated race was a fraud.

If he loses, Landis will become the first winner in the 103-year history of the Tour de France to be stripped of the victor’s yellow jersey because of doping. The disastrous toll his case has exacted on cycling’s credibility — races canceled for lack of sponsors, teams abandoned by their corporate underwriters, fans staying home — offers a stark picture of what can happen when a sport finally confronts its drug problem in a serious way.

This couldn’t be where baseball is headed, could it?

Very interesting.

Thanks… do you have the receipt?

According to Major League Baseball’s rule 21-b, the Twins’ Torii Hunter could face a three-year suspension. The rule as it is written, prohibits anyone connected with a particular team from offering a gift or reward to a person connected with another team.

Gift for defeating competing club. Any player or person connected with a Club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another Club for services rendered or supposed to be or to have been rendered in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing Club, and any player or person connected with a Club who shall solicit or accept from a player connected with another Club any gift or reward for any services rendered, or supposed to have been rendered, or who, having been offered any such gift or reward, shall fail to inform his League President or the Commissioner or the President of the Minor League Association, as the case may be, immediately of such offer, and of all facts and circumstances connected therewith, shall be declared ineligible for not less than three years.

Yeah, three years.

In other words, Hunter potentially could have sent the Kansas City Royals the most expensive case of Dom Perignon ever.

The reason for the gift (for those unfamiliar with the story) was to reward the Royals for their late-season sweep over the Detroit Tigers in 2006 which opened the door for the Twins to win the AL Central.

Fortunately, it appears as if reason will win out. Hunter’s gift was made in fun and it doesn’t seem as if the penalty will be anything more than a slap on the wrist. Hunter only sent four bottles of champagne to the Royals, who sent the unopened ones back when they learned about the flap.

However, it’s worth noting that Major League Baseball’s gift policy is much tougher than its stance on performance-enhancing drugs.

***
Speaking of performance-enhancing drugs, it appears as if the Floyd Landis case has once again resurfaced. According to the French bastion of journalism ethics, L’Equipe, Landis’s failed drug test from last summer’s Tour de France revealed a synthetic steroid. The paper knows this because it ran the leaked results that may or may not be true.

According to the Rant Your Head Off blog, here’s the deal:

  • L’Equipe has a very good source at LNDD and that the source repeatedly leaks information about test results
  • L’Equipe’s source claims the results show testosterone use in other stages of the Tour, but no actual proof is offered to back up those claims
  • Testing performed over the last week, according to Landis’ lawyers, was done at the direction of USADA’s outside counsel
  • USADA’s observers and lawyer had full access to all aspects and phases of the testing, while Landis’ observers were denied access to crucial parts of the analysis
  • LNDD, under the direction of USADA, are able to come up with “evidence” against Landis that supports the LNDD’s conclusions from Stage 17
  • The Arbitration panel, though ruling that an independent observer must be present for any testing performed, had no independent observer at the testing
  • News of Landis’ supposed results has already circled the globe

What we don’t know is this:

  • Whether or not the reports in L’Equipe and other newspapers are true
  • If the reports are true, we don’t know what exactly the results were or whether LNDD’s conclusions are, in fact, correct. If they are similar to the results from Stage 17, it may be arguable whether or not there is any evidence of synthetic testosterone in Landis’ system during the Tour
  • When (or if) Landis’ defense team will be provided with the test results
  • Whether the arbitration panel will allow the results as evidence, given that their own order that an independent observer be present was ignored

It doesn’t appear that anything will be resolved in this case before the 2007 Tour de France, not does it seem as if Landis – innocent or guilty – will get a truly fair hearing.

For another solid synopsis of the latest developments check out the always trenchant Trust But Verify site.

***

I finally tried the veggie cheesesteak (yes, I am away of the oxymoron there) and will offer a full review either tomorrow or the next day. I even took pictures.

Playoffs?

They got out the slide rules, spread sheets, calculators with all of those funny-looking symbols and statistics to crunch the numbers and decided that the Phillies will win the NL East in 2007.

Phew! On to the playoffs.

Kidding aside – and I kid the “stat geeks” because, well, why not? – the good folks at Baseball Prospectus determined that the Phillies will win the NL East with 87 victories, edging the New York Mets by two games and Atlanta Braves by five. In fact, Baseball Prospectus predicts that the 87 victories will be the second-highest total in the National League (one game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks) sixth-best in the Majors.

Here are BP’s playoff teams:

National League
East: Phillies
Central: Brewers
West: Diamondbacks
Wild card: Padres

American League
East: Red Sox
Central: Twins
West: Angels
Wild card: Yankees

Based on this, the Phillies would play the Padres in the NLDS.

But as White Sox GM Ken Williams told the Chicago Tribune about BP’s predictions:

“That’s a good sign for us, because usually they’re wrong about everything regarding our dealings.”

I won’t make my formal predictions until Opening Day eve, but here’s where I’m leaning:

National League
East: Mets
Central: Cardinals
West: Dodgers
WC: Phillies

American League
East: Red Sox
Central: Twins
West: Angels
WC: Yankees

That was easy enough. Let’s get on to the champagne-soaked celebration.

***
Reports coming out of Clearwater indicate that either Adam Eaton or Jon Lieber will start the season in the bullpen. This information comes after the Phillies lost Justin Germano to the Padres who claimed him off waivers, and sent right-hander Brian Sanches to Triple-A Ottawa.

Germano was a little upset about heading to San Diego. According to the Associated Press’ Rob Maaddi:

“I’m pretty shocked,” Germano said soon after assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. informed him of the move. “I thought I was right there. I had one bad inning. I knew they didn’t expect me to be perfect every time out.”

Meanwhile, players’ union head Donald Fehr will be in Clearwater to address the Phillies’ camp. Likely topics include drug testing and the World Baseball Classic.

***
Much has been made about the 76ers’ 50-point loss to the Houston Rockets on Sunday, which is the fourth-worst loss in team history. Needless to say, I didn’t watch the game and haven’t paid much attention to the aftermath, but here’s a thought: It’s reasonable to think that the Rockets could have played an entire half without scoring a single basket and still won the game.

Hey, they were up by 50!

***
Embattled Tour de France champ Floyd Landis will be near his old stomping grounds this weekend as part of his tour to raise funds for his legal defense.

As an aside, in researching the latest information on Landis, the case and his tour I participated in a message board conversation about the controversy before being attacked by someone who dubbed himself as “Pedrohead.” Besides being turned off by the whole message board experience, I’ve come to learn the identity of the character with the very apt nom de guerre, and let’s just say, “it figures.”

In the interest of full disclosure, my message board handle is, creatively, “jrfinger.” Do you think anyone will know it’s me?

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Finally, the presentation from author Eric Schlosser at F&M College last night was quite interesting, though he didn’t stray too far from the information presented in Fast Food Nation. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all.