Floyd Landis’s e-mails in which he purported to admit breaking doping rules and alleged that Lance Armstrong and other former cycling teammates did the same are under investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Landis’s claims, which were dismissed by Armstrong and cycling’s governing body, surfaced yesterday amid the Tour of California. Armstrong, who crashed out of the race yesterday, never has been sanctioned for failing a drug test and maintained that he never used any banned performance-enhancing substances.
“We have nothing to hide,” Armstrong said in a televised news conference before yesterday’s fifth stage in Visalia, California. “I can give you one word to sum this all up. It’s credibility. Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago.”
Landis, stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title after a positive doping test, told ESPN that he sent the e-mails “to clear my conscience.”
“I don’t want to be part of the problem anymore,” Landis told ESPN. “With the benefit of hindsight and a somewhat different perspective, I made some misjudgments.”
While some of the claims have been made before, USADA opened an inquiry, Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union, known by its French acronym UCI, said in a phone interview from Aigle, Switzerland.
McQuaid said he was among officials to receive the e-mails.
USADA, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said in a statement it will take “appropriate action” if there is any credible evidence of doping. It declined further comment.
McQuaid said the only thing Landis’s statement “proves is that he’s a liar.”
“He has stood up in court and denied these things,” McQuaid said. “He’s got absolutely no credibility.”
The UCI in a statement said it would “undertake all necessary measures” to defend itself against Landis’s claims, particularly that former UCI President Hein Verbruggen collaborated to conceal a positive doping result by Armstrong at the 2002 Tour of Switzerland.
“The UCI categorically rejects accusations made by Mr. Floyd Landis,” it said. “The UCI would like to point out that Lance Armstrong did not participate in the 2002 Tour of Switzerland.”
In May 2007, Landis said USADA offered him a lighter sentence in return for “incriminating” evidence about Armstrong, the record seven-time Tour de France champion.
“I didn’t have any desire to bring Lance into this,” Landis said in a conference call at the time. “I find it to be offensive, at best.”
Landis’s e-mails were reported yesterday by the Wall Street Journal and ESPN.com. Landis told ESPN’s website that he didn’t “feel guilty at all having doped.”
Landis said he used erythropoietin, a red blood-cell boosting drug called EPO, as well as testosterone, human growth hormone and blood transfusions, ESPN said. He experimented with female hormones and insulin, ESPN said.
The UCI said that it “regrets that Mr. Landis has publicly accused individuals without allowing sufficient time for the relevant U.S. authorities to investigate.” It added that it will leave it to the individuals accused to take any action.
“At the end of the day, he pointed the finger at everybody still involved with cycling,” Armstrong said yesterday. “Everybody that’s still enjoying the sport, everybody that still believes in the sport, everybody that is still working in the sport was in the crosshairs.”
Armstrong, who withdrew from the Tour of California after a group crash left him with a bruised elbow and a cut under his left eye, said that while he has taken legal action in past cases where his name has been linked to doping, he’s “not going to do that anymore.”
‘Sad to see’
Andy Rihs, owner of the defunct Phonak team that once employed Landis, denied knowing the rider was taking drugs.
“It’s sad to have to see this happening,” Rihs said in an e-mailed statement.
Steve Owens, manager of the Ouch-Bahati Foundation team where Landis now rides, declined to comment in an e-mail. The team wasn’t invited to the Tour of California.
Landis has consistently denied he violated doping rules in winning the 2006 Tour de France. In April 2007, he said he had spent more than $1 million in legal fees, about half of which has been paid through donations, in seeking to clear his name.
He has returned to the sport after serving a two-year ban.
Cycling is trying to break from a past tarnished by scandals such as a 1998 police drugs raid on the Festina team during the Tour de France. Bjarne Riis, the 1996 race winner, said three years ago he had been part of an “EPO generation” and had regularly doped.
A test for synthetic EPO was introduced in 2000. Cycling in 2008 began monitoring changes in blood readings of riders to try to identify those having transfusions, which, like EPO, can improve stamina.
The number of cyclists with a high level of reticulocytes, or immature red blood cells, fell since 2008, a sign the monitoring is a deterrent, McQuaid said Feb. 25.