News feature: Floyd Landis' arbitration hearing - day 6, May 20, 2007
Floyd Landis took the stand today to vigorously deny the charge that he ever took testosterone or banned substances during a cycling career that began on dusty mountain trails in Pennsylvania and later saw him ascend the breathtaking climbs of Europe's Alps to a Tour de France win in 2006.
Under oath, he flatly rejected the claim of Greg LeMond that he had admitted to doping in a heart-to-heart telephone conversation last August. In the conversation, LeMond had confided his own child abuse and revealed what Landis more than once referred to as one of the worst things that could happen to a person.
Recounting the moment when he learned of LeMond's sexual abuse in testimony he began late in the afternoon, Landis said: "It traumatized me," adding that he did not know how to respond. At a loss for words to say to LeMond, he said: "I apologized .... Again, I apologized."
When he later talked to LeMond on another occasion - after he had posted a message about LeMond on a cycling website's forum in November telling him to stop opinionating on his doping allegations - LeMond spoke of him admitting to taking testosterone in the earlier confessional phone call, he said.
On that call, Landis tried to tell him that he never admitted doping the first time and LeMond only persisted that that was not how he remembered the conversation. LeMond, he said, had called him instantly after the message was posted in which he had written the provocative comment, "what Greg actually divulged to me is what he does not want to talk about."
Delivered with humility and in a short, staccato-style speech, Landis' testimony laid bare the friction with Lance Armstrong, the trials of competition and injury, and notably, colossal bad management and decision-making at various turns in the saga since learning of his positive doping results in France - right up until his now former business manager's calls to LeMond three nights ago in Malibu.
More than anything, it was a tale of the fragility of friendships formed on the road and in the intensity of competition. In responding to his own team's attorney Howard Jacobs's final dramatic question about why it was that the arbitration panel should believe him, Landis defended not just his career, but his substance as a man: "Well they should believe me because people are defined by their principles and how they make their decisions. To me, bicycle racing was rewarding for the pure fact that I was proud of myself when I put the work into it, and I could see results and get something out of it.
"Whatever those results were, as long as I knew that I did the work, that I earned what I got, that was satisfying for me - obviously trying to win - some win more than others - but nevertheless, it's a matter of who I am," he continued. "And it wouldn't serve any purpose for me to cheat and win the Tour because I wouldn't be proud of it and that's just not what the goal was in the end."
Landis recounted the explosive events of Wednesday night that led to the firing of his business manager and allegations of witness tampering at the hotel where he and his lawyers are staying just down the road from the Pepperdine campus and its coastline vistas. He had been in a dining area sitting at the other end of the table from Will Geoghegan and aware of the phone calls Geoghegan was conducting without knowing to whom they were placed, he said.
Landis did not hear the contents of the conversations, he said in response to the question from Jacobs. The call was very short, so short as to make Landis think at first that there was no one on the other end of the line.
"At first it didn't really sink in that he'd called anybody," said Landis. Upon realizing what had actually happened, he felt "traumatized," he said, without letting on how he came to know. He reiterated that he would never make light of the childhood history of LeMond as one of the worst human experiences possible.
Landis said that although he regrettably had been compelled to share the LeMond story with those closest to him due to the situation he was in, he had never expected it to be construed as a threat.
LeMond, he noted, had told him previously that "anyway" it did not bother him who he divulged the story of his abuse to because he was going to write a book about it. He learned later that Geoghegan had called the original caller back immediately after and had not spoken at all on the call he witnessed, he told the panel in sinking Geoghegan further into the mud.
"I left the room and went back to my room for 15 minutes to try to figure out ... well this is an entirely new situation, I didn't know ... but we both left ... he went to his room, I went to mine," he said in thready testimony.
Landis said that in his room he decided he had "better go talk to Will" (Geoghegan) and so went up to his room, where he heard him speaking on the phone which he now "guesses was the conversation he was having with Greg."
Geoghegan did not answer immediately but, though Landis could not hear what he was saying, when he did eventually open the door, he looked very disturbed. "Well I was disturbed, too. But he was visibly disturbed and he said that he had made a big mistake and that he didn't know what to do. And I ... well I didn't either. (But) just to make sure what I thought had taken place. And he wanted to know what to do - 'Should we call Maurice (Suh) and tell the lawyers.' And I said 'Yeah, we probably should' but they're not back at the hotel yet.'"
It would be almost an entire day before Suh informed the hearing room that Geoghegan, who started helping out when the scandal blew up, had been terminated. Landis later helped Geoghegan get his things and move from the hotel, he said.Whereupon Jacobs - undoubtedly seizing the moment to change course given the choppy waters into which the testimony had waded - deftly said: "Let's change subjects a little bit." To hip replacement surgery in September of 2006, to be exact.
Earlier, Landis said that the initial comments he had made about the doping test results in France were those of publicist statements, some of which he never saw before they were released and one of which he was handed and just read out to the media on sheer trust. At the time, he did not know what to do and had nobody to turn to, he said.
His lawyers from that day were no longer with him, he said. Like his translator and business manager this week, they had been dropped for their incompetence and possibly betrayal. Landis appeared to be arguing his naiveté at least and blaming others at most.
His wife, who fidgeted nervously on her husband's behalf while he testified, and who was sleekly attired in a fashionable black and white wrap-around dress, was the first person to learn of the test results.
Landis said he told her that it was a mistake and he thought it must have been the cortisone he had taken in injection form on at least one occasion that was mentioned today for his hip replacement as therapeutic usage of a normally banned substance. He had also reported to Jacobs taking a "little blue pill" the name of which he could not recount on the stand for a thyroid condition.
Landis more than once alluded to the stress of life in Europe, to loneliness and seeking out a team where he could connect with people and socialize with them. It took him months to adjust to the continent when he first went over. "It's tough living in Europe, when you're training all day. You're tired at the end of the day. There's nobody to talk with," he said.
Jacobs, who took Landis through the history of his career, from the time he started to race on a mountain bike through his time with the US Postal Service Team, asked the athlete 'Did you ever use testosterone or any performance enhancing substances during your time with the US Postal Service Team'. To which he replied no.
In 2005, the year he switched over to the Phonak team, Landis spoke of conflict with mentor and hero Lance Armstrong, who he had up to that point been designated and it would seem given a calling on to "help".
When asked what the reason that he decided to switch teams, he said: "Well I didn't know if Lance was planning on racing for another year and that year, there was a little bit of conflict between us because there were some things that I wanted from the team. Different things and some different treatment.
"The team was really focused on Lance and he deserved that - not to take away from that," he continued. "But I wanted to go to a team where I had a chance for myself and he couldn't tell me if he was going to race on the Tour again or not. I really didn't think he was going to but I didn't want to take a risk. I wanted to go somewhere where there was some team work; that wasn't completely focused on one race and I could focus on whatever race."
Jacobs brought Landis forward to when he testified on Phonak's Tyler Hamilton's behalf at one of his hearings, asking what he said. "They asked me about what it was like knowing him. I testified that Tyler was really..I enjoyed..I couldn't say much more than that, I hadn't spent much time with him but to me he seemed like a sincere guy."
Landis confirmed that Phonak had had positive drug tests but in answer to Jacob's question, said he had not ever seen any doping or used any doping products. Or testosterone. He said Phonak had its own internal doping policy and monitoring when he arrived there, and this got stricter over two years. "They would monitor it as best they could," he said. "At the races or team races and training camps...(with) blood profiles."
Catlin lightens day six mood
Observers at today's Landis hearing were tipped off Landis would take the stand ahead of schedule around 2 pm and a nervous tension pervaded the scene. But USADA witness Don Catlin, very recently retired as chief of UCLA's analytical laboratory, took the stand as originally planned, telling the court: "There is no doubt in my opinion doping was going on. And it's just inescapable that that was going on."
Catlin said he had arranged to testify with USADA a long time before his retirement from UCLA.
Catlin, who waged a bit of a cat and mouse game with Suh that saw Suh finally erupt in humor, revealed that one of the key criteria for being affiliated with WADA and being a good WADA citizen was to never testify against another lab or "your neighbour".
He said that in perhaps 50 instances of giving testimony in a doping hearing in his stellar scientific career, he had given testimony that could be seen to support an athlete. Or at least that which WADA found unfavourable.
For his testimony in the Zach Lund case, he had got "beat up", he said.
When asked by Suh - who was doubtful that Catlin's idea of supporting an athlete matched his own - what it was that brought him grief in the Lund case, he replied that WADA had voiced concerns about what he said. "I don't think WADA was very happy about it," he admitted.
Suh then asked him was Olivier Rabin involved and begged for elaboration. "It was made very clear to me it was not a good idea at the time," Catlin said somewhat cryptically.
Rabin was the scientific director of WADA. Suh pressed on to draw Catlin on what he considered testifying for an athlete, in this case what he said in the Lund case. "Your testimony in favour of the athlete in that case was that finasteride was not a masking agent?" he asked, explaining that WADA had put the substance on its banned list.
Catlin, in one humorous aside, told Suh that he had overheard him talking with the French people and that it had made no sense to him. Suh possibly blushing slightly then adopted a lighter approach.
"I've never really had so many first time experiences in a trial," he said giving everyone a taste of his brilliant wit.
He began likening chromatograms to students getting their papers graded, and asking Catlin to give this chromatogram a grade. Later he quipped "Let's give this chromatogram a break, then." Laughter in the room eased tension.
Suh asked him how important the issue of good peak separation is, to which Catlin replied: "Largely yes, there are times when I can live without separation and times when I cannot."
Catlin at one point did not want to discuss the slope of a baseline.
"I don't want you to get the idea that I'm an idiot when it comes to sloping baselines or anything like that," he said. "You're better off asking Professor Brenna."
He emphasized his role was overseer and his lab manager, educated with a PhD, was involved in the day to day handling of samples.
"The people in the lab who decide where the slope begins and ends and doing it daily and I'm overseeing it and watching them but they don't bring it to me. They just proceed and get it done."
Suh submitted him to what has become the typical tireless and tedious drill on deleting and overriding data.
An earlier phone hook up with Dr Wilhelm Schanzer, USADA witness and director of the Institute of Biochemistry of the German Sports University in Cologne, suffered the same incessant logistical delays and cross communications that have beset the hearing since day one.
At one stage data was to be faxed to him so he could answer a question about it and the hearing had to take yet another 15 minute recess. Schanzer had to give his fax number because no one in the California hearing room had it.
The hearing, which is slated to finish on Wednesday, continues on Monday, with Landis expected to fact more questioning by his legal team, before undergoing cross-examination.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP Photo
- US cyclist Floyd Landis' attorneys Maurice Suh (L) and Howard Jacobs arrive.
- Floyd Landis arrives for his first day in the stand.
- Under oath Landis denied ever taking performance enhancing drugs.
- Suh gives in to Catlin's wit, and cracks a smile while questioning the former UCLA analytical laboratory chief.
- A relaxed Landis responds to questions on day six of the hearing.
- Floyd Landis is sworn in as he takes to the stand for questioning by his legal team.
- Don Catlin, former chief of UCLA's analytical laboratory, also took to the stand today.
Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied