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Floyd Landis at the New Pathways for Pro Cycling conference in Australia
American says testers are not remotely close to catching cheats
Floyd Landis has launched an attack on the cycling authorities he believes have enabled and covered up doping within the sport and said that doping should be legalised. The American announced his retirement from the sport earlier in the week but his comments to Cyclingnews come on the back of a Sports Illustrated story in which they claim that Lance Armstrong showed abnormally high testosterone ratios on three occasions in the 1990s. Armstrong denied the accusations.
Landis won the Tour de France in 2006, but lost the title after testing positive for synthetic testosterone during the race. He maintained his innocence and put up a major public defence, spending his life savings as well as cash secured from donations, before finally losing the fight and his Tour title.
In April last year a series of emails from Landis to various cycling authorities and media outlets were published in which he appeared as the whistle blower of a set of major drug scandals and cover-ups involving the US Postal team, Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel and the sport's governing body, the UCI. All parties discredited Landis and proclaimed their innocence. The FDA have since opened an investigation and spoken to a number of former Postal riders as well as reportedly meeting with French police at the Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France.
However Landis's beliefs that doping should be legalised come on the back of his retirement. He told Cyclingnews:
"In the US we have these gun laws where half the country thinks we should have them and half don't, but the fact of the matter is that the bad guys have guns and you can't get them back from the bad guys. It's nice to live in a pretend world where you can start over, where you say you're not going to have guns, well that's wonderful and good luck with that and go to church on Sundays and enjoy yourself, but the fact of the matter is that there are guns and the bad guys have them and trying to keep others from having them isn't going to accomplish anything," he said, using guns as an analogy for doping in sport.
"You got to go about it another way and you've got to legalise doping. They [the testers] are so far behind in the testing organisations that there's no way to change it now. Just accept that it's here, that it's not going away and that it's just going to get more complicated and the fact that it's not that complicated yet compared to what it will be. Ten years from now it's going to be four times as hard as it now to test for things.
Landis expressed a pessimistic view of efforts to clean up the sport, saying, "They're not even remotely close to catching anybody; it's just a joke. You can use as much EPO as you want and unless you're an idiot you're not going to get caught.
"Just start over and let it be. I'm convinced now that there's no stopping it and you've got to stop ruining lives over it. The bad guys will always have guns and the bad guys will always use drugs and that will force the good guys to do the same.
"Since you can't stop it you have to deal with it in rational kind of way. You can't stop it and you cant fix it. Monitor it and make sure people don't hurt themselves, but you have to accept it."
Landis' letters last year named a number of ex-teammates as well as old friends as being involved in doping.
"It was hard to put them all on the same level when some were friends, but I had to separate that if I was going to be honest. Good people dope, bad people dope it's just the way it was and the offence is not greater if you are an asshole or a saint."
Until yesterday Landis was willing to walk away from the sport, however the Sports Illustrated article which appeared Tuesday has angered him. Despite this and the days Landis said he spent soul searching before making his retirement announcement, the American believes that whatever the outcome, he leaves with a clear conscience.
"Maybe I just want to be able to live with myself," he told Cyclingnews.
"The people pointing fingers could take a lesson from that. The sport wanted a fall guy and they got it. I didn't want to be that guy but I finally accepted that I am that guy and admitted everything and now they say I'm lying again. It doesn't matter anymore. I'm happy now. I've got my pride. I don't care about anything else."
On Wednesday, British cyclist Bradley Wiggins told Cyclingnews that Lance Armstrong was 'innocent until proven guilty' and added that: "I think you have to question Landis' credibility because he lied under oath before and the stories that you hear about him drinking and things like that and you know, [making] telephone calls to people I know, threatening them with things, you just think that the guy appears to not all be there. So when you see these kinds of claims in the press you have to question his credibility because it's almost like it's coming from a mad man, but at the same time maybe that's all borne out of frustration and things."
However, Landis told Cyclingnews that his motives stem from wanting to help cycling as well.
"If people are willing to come to me and talk to me and I believe that there are a bunch of honest people out there, whether they doped or not. Some of them would like to tell the truth but nobody wants to do what I did. Nobody wants to set off a bomb in their face and deal with it. Why would they when they don't have to?"
"The truth needs to be out because until people can see the whole story…. It's not about one guy, everyone is wrong here, even Wiggins, who is talking the way he his, saying how I ruined cycling in his book. He wants to apply this 'innocent until proven guilty' to Lance because he's scared of him? That's chicken, just shut up and don't talk."
Back in May of last year Landis detailed the looming statute of limitations deadline on the information he's provided as the motivation behind his revelations. "I want to clear my conscience," Landis told ESPN. "I don't want to be part of the problem any more."
Now, with the investigation underway, Landis admits that he has nothing to lose.
"I know it sounds depressing, but there's more to life than cycling. I love riding my bike and I always will but you have to separate what you want out of bike racing from what you want out of riding your bike. Don't lump it all into one thing and get depressed. I did that for a while and it made me insane. If you want to watch bike racing for what it is and the drama, that's great."
"I can be frank because I can take a position where I'm willing to lose everything. Maybe that's a character flaw, but that's just the way I am. Now when it comes to the breaking point where people are saying innocent until proven guilty when it's clear what the facts and there's no risk to telling the truth because I took the fall, then you're a fake, you're a fraud."