Last summer’s Tour de France winner, Floyd Landis, finished his doping hearing in Malibu yesterday. Whether he is ultimately found guilty or not of doping during last summer’s ride, it has brought the subject of truth-telling to the front page.
Cycling legend’s Greg Lemond’s testimony got everybody’s attention. Greg, a three-time Tour winner, said he had talked to Floyd about his doping charge last summer and Floyd had implicitly admitted it. Greg urged him to “come clean” and not deny the truth. He told Landis that he had learned firsthand that hiding the truth is damaging, citing sexual abuse he’d endured during childhood. “It destroyed me to keep that secret,” Lemond told Landis. “I believe you to be a good person in a bad sport that needs some cleaning up.” Lemond went on to advise: “for your own health and future, not to keep any such secret bottled up.”
Lemond had another bombshell: he said he received a phone call the night before he was scheduled to testify from Landis’ business manager, threatening to “out” Lemond about the sexual abuse if he implicated Landis in the investigation. Lemond reported the threat to authorities; Landis fired his business manager the next day.
The effects of the Malibu hearings and Greg’s stand were felt in Germany yesterday, where a doping admission by the popular rider Zabel,“Mr. Clean,” was front-page news. And this morning, Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme called for more cyclists to speak out. He said “the law of silence is not totally broken, but the wall is crumbling.”
Landis continues to deny using illicit drugs despite incriminating samples. Upon cross-examination, experts testified that drug tests are not “perfect.” This type of legalistic posturing flies in the face of what people like Lemond know in the marrow of their bones: that truth heals all.
Greg Lemond acted in accord with this basic principle. Life has shown him the cost of living a lie and the boon that comes with telling the truth, no matter how painful it may be. His stand with fellow athlete and champion Landis reflects this commitment, as did his refusal to be blackmailed.
If Landis were to demonstrate this kind of courage and admit to breaking the rules, he would be in a unique position to speak a larger truth: drug use is rampant in the cycling world as it is in many competitive sports. So prevalent is the use of performance-enhancing illicit substances, it is nearly impossible to compete without the superhuman boost they provide. When one athlete takes a stand, the whole sporting world will take notice and one day soon that truth will provide the impetus to turn the tide.