The head of cycling's international sanctioning body told 2006 Tour de France champion Floyd Landis that his defense against doping charges would leave him "penniless," warning the cyclist: "There's no way you can win."
The admonition appears in Landis' new autobiography, "Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France," which is the latest stage of the American cyclist's yearlong effort to clear his name. Landis will kick off his promotional tour for the book with scheduled appearances on the CBS' "The Early Show" and the "Late Show with David Letterman."
Landis was accused of doping after last summer's Tour de France, which he won with a come-from-behind ride in the punishing, mountainous Stage 17 of the race. The book portrays Landis' ride in that stage as the product of an audaciously aggressive team tactic more than of a surge of energy.
That's notable because anti-doping authorities, who declared his urine sample from that stage to be positive for synthetic testosterone, have suggested that he took the hormone to obtain an energy boost for his comeback.
The Stage 17 result led to his formal accusation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), and ultimately to a public nine-day arbitration hearing last month at Pepperdine, at which he declared his innocence. The three-member arbitration panel has not yet issued a decision.
By Landis' recounting, international cycling authorities assumed he was guilty even before his backup urine sample was tested. After that was declared positive, Landis asserted his innocence and stated his intention to challenge the accusation "to the end." He says that earned him a call from Pat McQuaid, the president of the International Cycling Union.
"I'm sure you weren't doing anything that everyone else wasn't doing," McQuaid said, according to the book. "You're just the unlucky one who got caught." Landis says McQuaid advised him to "accept a suspension because there's no way you can win." When Landis said he would defend himself through the arbitration process established under the World Anti-Doping Code -- a system that heavily favors the prosecutors -- McQuaid replied, "You'll end up penniless." Indeed, Landis has said that his defense has cost nearly $2 million to date.
"Positively False," co-written by Loren Mooney, executive editor of Bicycling Magazine, generally breaks little new ground. Landis denies ever having doped and gives no indication that he ever witnessed doping by any other cyclist, including Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion who was Landis' team leader in three of those races.
For anti-doping authorities, Armstrong is plainly the elusive white whale. Landis repeats a charge he made earlier this year that USADA's general counsel, Travis Tygart, offered him a suspension of less than a year if he would give the agency evidence implicating Armstrong. The proposed sanction would have allowed Landis to race in this year's Tour de France. Landis refused out of principle, and also because "I didn't have any evidence to give them about Lance.... I never saw anything to indicate that Lance used performance-enhancing drugs." Tygart has refused to comment.
The book does provide fuller background to the most sensational moment of the arbitration hearing -- the revelation that his business manager, Will Geoghegan, had made an arguably threatening anonymous phone call to former Tour de France champion Greg LeMond the night before LeMond was to testify for the prosecution.
During the call, Geoghegan alluded to the fact that LeMond had been sexually abused as a child, a story that LeMond had shared with Landis earlier.
Landis writes that Geoghegan made the cellphone call from a banquet room at the defense team's hotel, where a buffet table had been set up for dinner.
"At one point, Will and I were alone at the table, him on the phone and me checking my BlackBerry, not paying attention until I heard him talking like he was making a prank phone call about LeMond's childhood abuse," Landis writes. "It instantly caught my attention. Trash-talking LeMond generally is one thing, but making fun of his abuse was not OK with me."
"What the hell are you doing?" Landis asked.
"I didn't believe what I was hearing," Landis writes in the book. "Will had Greg LeMond on the line when he said those awful things. This was bad." He says he "knew right away" that he would have to fire Geoghegan, but the separation was not announced until the following afternoon, after LeMond testified and the phone call was revealed.
Landis plainly understands that Geoghegan's phone call handed USADA a priceless opportunity to distract the public, and possibly the arbitrators, from the scientific evidence he had assembled against the lab.
"LeMond's testimony made a mockery of the hearing," he writes, "I understand that some people's belief in my integrity was shaken by Will's awful action.... I also hope that people don't base their belief that I did or didn't cheat on a gut feeling, but rather on the scientific facts of the case."