Following the announcement by the UCI that it has filed a defamation suit against Floyd Landis, the deposed Tour de France winner says he is ready to fight the case in an effort to expose “the corruption within cycling.”
Cycling’s international governing body, as well as its current president, Pat McQuaid, and his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, have filed a law suit in Swiss courts, seeking damages from Landis after a year of allegations that the UCI and its leadership had covered up positive doping tests of select riders, particularly at least one from his former teammate Lance Armstrong.
Contacted by VeloNews, Landis said he intends to mount a vigorous defense against the suit, arguing that all of the allegations he’s leveled against the UCI and its former leaders are true, and that the governing body’s suit “will strengthen my resolve to expose them as the criminals that they are.”
While the target of many of Landis’ doping allegations, Armstrong has not filed a suit in U.S. courts. Armstrong spokesman and attorney Mark Fabiani explained that decision to the New York Daily News, suggesting that the former Tour winner had “no intention of wasting any more time or money on Floyd Landis. He is a person who is so discredited already that it would be impossible to discredit him anymore.”
Landis’ charges, however, appear to have been taken seriously by federal authorities, who quickly expanded an already active investigation into doping in cycling to include Armstrong and the management of the former U.S. Postal Service cycling team. One major element of that case is headed by Jeff Novitzky, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Criminal Division investigator, perhaps best known for his work in the sports doping case triggered by the prosecution of those involved with the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO).
The investigation now involves several federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and both the civil and criminal divisions of the Department of Justice. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Doug Miller and Mark Williams head the Department of Justice team working with a grand jury empanelled in the case in the Central District of California.
The investigation has led to cooperation between U.S. and European authorities who are examining a number of large financial transactions and allegations of fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. While Armstrong and others have frequently been mentioned as targets of that investigation, the UCI and its officials have not been publicly mentioned as being part of the case.
On Wednesday, the UCI cited Landis’ “numerous unacceptable public statements” as reason to pursue a defamation suit in an effort to “defend the integrity of the cycling movement.”
Landis, however, said that he is confident that he can defend against the suit, because those allegations, he says, are true. Landis initially declined to comment on the UCI suit on Wednesday, but sent the following statement to VeloNews via email later in the day:
One year ago, for the sake of my conscience, I admitted to having lied about having used (performance-enhancing drugs) during my cycling career. There was no doubt in my mind that I’d face retribution by those who stood to lose when faced with the exposure of their fraud.
Having felt the vitriol and invective directed at those who must bear the scarlet “D” for being exposed, I met with USADA and pled with them to subject none of my former colleagues to this opprobrium but rather to offer confidentiality and immunity to those who came clean and who offered a glimpse into the corruption within cycling. In return for turning on many of my former friends and colleagues I was assured that they’d be granted lenience and never have to suffer for my actions or theirs. Indeed in recent discussions I’ve learned that many of them have chosen to clear their conscience and have confirmed to USADA many of the allegations that I’ve made which were written off by the perpetrators of the fraud as “sour milk.”
However in light of the UCI’s attempt to collect defamation damages against me and the resulting necessity to have to defend myself, I now will have no choice but to depose those cyclists and expose them and for that I’m deeply sorry. I had hoped that in spite of whatever any current Federal cases may expose, as few of them as possible would need to speak publicly or testify, but it has become clear that the leaders of cycling will destroy anyone who stands in the way of covering their crimes.
The defamation suit filed today by the cycling leadership is nothing short of witness intimidation and a terrorist tactic designed to take away from me one of Americans’ most highly valued rights. So while the clouded version of freedom of speech offered to Europeans has allowed them to bully others into subservience in the past, it will only serve to strengthen my resolve to expose them as the criminals that they are.
In June of last year, Landis signed a representation agreement with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati, a law firm that represented three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond in various lawsuits, including a recent dispute with Trek Bicycle Company. At the time, news reports suggested that the firm would represent Landis in the event of a defamation suit.