By Sue George
On Wednesday evening at the Arlington, Virginia, Cinema N Drafthouse in the suburbs of Washington DC, Floyd Landis met cycling fans in an intimate, town-hall style gathering. His goals were to raise money for the recently launched Floyd Fairness Fund (FFF) and to enable local members of the cycling community to directly interact with him.
Landis spoke to an audience of about 130 people for less than ten minutes before he fielded questions from attendees, most of whom were members of the local cycling community. The event was not publicized to the media in advance, but word spread quickly through the cycling community.
Landis' spokesperson, Michael Henson, who also briefly addressed the audience along with pro bono FFF fund chairman Brian Rafferty, said this was Landis' first gathering of this type. "It's a grass roots effort to put Floyd in front of his fans and supporters and those who don't know what to make of his situation," said Henson to Cyclingnews. "We feel the town hall style fits Floyd because here people can ask questions and he can answer honestly." Henson speculated that more gatherings of this type could occur elsewhere.
"We want to hear what people have to say. Part of what we're looking to do here is to bring a greater sense of democracy to the sport and the process," said Henson referring to what events have followed Landis' positive doping test, "therefore, it's appropriate to have it in DC."
Questions ranged from specific details about his case to what riders in the peloton discuss during races to his future plans. Landis confirmed his intentions to race the Leadville 100 mountain bike race even after Lance Armstrong's recent withdrawal.
While on the subject of endurance racing, Landis received an invitation to add another off-road 100 miler, Virginia's Shenandoah Mountain 100, to his calendar. He did not rule out the possibility, telling race promoter Chris Scott diplomatically that he'd have to check his schedule before joking, "I'd like to come, but I don't have to race if it's raining, right?"
When it comes to mountain biking, Landis admitted he has done very little until recently; however, since his hip surgery, he has been reacquainting himself with off-road riding. For years, mountain bike racing was off limits; he feared the consequences of having to suddenly step off the bike onto his injured leg.
One audience member asked Landis if he'd rather have been tied to Operación Puerto or be dealing with his current situation after testing positive for testosterone following his stage 17 Tour de France win on his way to an overall win [a final decision determining the race's overall winner by organizers is still pending - ed.] Landis quipped, "Would I rather lose an arm or a leg?" Several times throughout the night, he and his legal team expressed their belief in the unfairness of the current doping process and what was described as its guilty until proven innocent approach.
A silent auction and a raffle raised money for the Floyd Fairness Fund. One signed bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey went for $350 while a jersey auctioned for $700. All total, the evening raised about $5,000 to $6,000 as estimated by the evening's volunteer moderator and local cyclist Scott Scudamore.
The gig came about through family connections between the chairman of the FFF and a local member of the cycling community. Reportedly, Landis was also in town to speak to congressional staff about the process he is now undergoing.
The fallen 2006 Tour de France winner is likely to continue public appearances to state his case, but eventually his time in an official court will come. Later this spring or early summer, he will appear before the American Arbitration Association for a hearing. No date is set yet.
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