Last night, at nearly the same place on the trail, I pulled off to spend an hour looking at and trying to listen to Floyd Landis. Instead of defending his Tour d’France title, he’s out signing copies of his new book, Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour d’France. A much larger crowd than I expected, maybe 300 people, were at Third Place Books to ask questions, get reassurances, and have their books signed by this diminished champion.
His case on doping has been an outrageous, bewildering spectacle, much of it badly managed by Landis himself, with odd excuses and unseemliness. Last year, I compared Landis’s integrity to a wheel that’s lost its true. I think that he’s made some valid arguments that improvements in lab protocols are in order, and that professional cyclists deserve protections from the leaking of test results. It, however, does not answer how one ends up with two tests with synthetics in the bloodstream.
The biggest applause of the night was when Landis hinted that the lab work was part of L’Grande French Conspiracy. Not only does this attitude show a ridiculous provincialism, but it also undermines the professionalism of lab workers. Like the cyclist’s desire to win the race, I imagine that the lab scientist is driven toward the truth of science and in a job done well. Why would a lab or lab researcher expose themselves to the same ridiculous costs of a law suit if they were not certain of their work?
While most of us can’t quite fathom the difficulty of the Tour, we’ve all had lab work done. We’ve watched vials of our blood labeled, seen blood spinning in centrifuges, and gotten test results. Mine are always reasonable and what I’d expect. Sometimes the cholesterol is a little high, but no one has ever suggested that I have synthetics in my blood. I’ve never gotten a call from anyone I know with an unexpected synthetic results. Not once. I’ve never even heard of someone I know with bad lab results of any kind. I know it happens, as planes crash and people get hit by lightening. It is in the same category in my mind.
This is what Landis is up against. The result of synthetics unexpectedly found in one’s blood boggles the mind of folks like me.
A shout out to Biking Bis, where I saw that this event was happening and was easy to stop by on my ride home from work. He blogs consistently on cycling news both locally and nationally, including bike touring, a bit of racing results, and community action.