Ongoing: The cycling world reacts to Floyd Landis’ charges

The cycling world reacts to Floyd Landis’ public admission of doping and his allegations regarding former employers and teammates, among them Lance Armstrong.

AEG's Andrew Messick
AEG's Andrew Messick

The cycling world is reacting this morning to Floyd Landis’ public admission of doping and his allegations regarding former employers and teammates, among them Lance Armstrong.

Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, owner and organizer of the Amgen Tour of California, told VeloNews reporter Brian Holcombe: “First we don’t know what to believe and we are carefully paying attention to what, if any, of these allegations prove to be true.”

“We all believed Floyd during the four years he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs,” Messick continued. “There are a lot of fans of his in our organization. So for him to say that everything he’s been telling us for four years is untrue is a completely different reality.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time for us to come to a point of view on the true veracity of that. Amgen is how we are committed to the proper use of their medicine and to clean racing. We have a comprehensive supplemental anti-doping program that we’ve had in place for years now that tests for EPO, CERA and other PEDs. And we are confident, as is Amgen, that we are doing everything that we can to ensure that our race is as clean as it can be.”

Regarding the timing of Landis’ confession, he added: “It doesn’t feel like an accident.”

BMC team owner Andy Rihs — who also owned the Phonak team, under whose colors Landis won and subsequently was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title — issued a statement denying any involvement in doping practices.

The statement said Rihs “heard with great surprise the recent declaration made by the former bicycle racer Floyd Landis and resolutely denies these allegations in all aspects.”

Rihs said that when Landis joined Phonak he agreed to honor the team’s code and refrain from “illicit practices,” and that until his positive test during the 2006 Tour de France “the entire team was convinced that he had kept this promise.”

“Neither I nor the management of the team knew that Floyd Landis was doped,” Rihs continued. “His present statements according to which I was informed are lies.”

BMC Racing Team president Jim Ochowicz and George Hincapie also issued statements.

“The BMC Racing Team is aware of the allegations leveled against some of its management team and one of its riders, U.S. national champion George Hincapie. These allegations are not true, absolutely unfounded and unproven. This is disappointing to anyone who works in the sport or is a fan of the sport,” said Ochowicz.

As for Hincapie, he said: “I have been a professional on the circuit for 17 years – which is one of the longest careers in the peloton. During that time, I have earned the respect of my peers and a reputation for working hard, honestly and honorably. I’m really disappointed to hear these accusations.”

The Union Cycliste Internationale also issued a brief statement expressing regret that Landis “has publicly accused individuals without allowing sufficient time for the relevant U.S. authorities to investigate.”

“An impartial investigation is a fundamental right, as Mr. Landis will understand, having contested, for two years, the evidence of his breach of the Anti-Doping Rules in 2006,” the statement continued. “The UCI will leave it to the individuals accused by Mr. Landis to take the position they see fit with regards to this issue.”

UCI president Pat McQuaid took things a bit further in an interview with the BBC.

“What’s his agenda?” McQuaid asked. “The guy is seeking revenge. It’s sad, it’s sad for cycling. It’s obvious he does hold a grudge. He already made those accusations in the past. I have to question the guy’s credibility. There is no proof of what he says. We are speaking about a guy who has been condemned for doping before a court.”

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) issued a statement from president John Fahey.

“WADA is aware of the serious allegations made by Mr. Landis. We are very interested in learning more about this matter and we will liaise with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and any other authorities with appropriate jurisdiction to get to the heart of the issues raised. WADA looks forward to these further investigations and enquiries by those responsible.

“Generally speaking, WADA encourages everyone with knowledge of banned practices in sport, including athletes who were caught cheating and who denied the evidence for years, to be forthcoming in disclosing the information they may have to the proper authorities. This will further contribute to clean sport and strengthen existing anti-doping programs for the good of clean athletes worldwide.”

USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson noted: “There are many accusations being circulated and we are confident these will be thoroughly investigated by the appropriate authorities.” Beyond that, he added,  “In accordance with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Code of Athlete’s Rights, USA Cycling does not and will not discuss doping allegations, investigations or any aspect of an adjudication process.”— VeloNews reporter Brian Holcombe, European correspondent Andrew Hood, managing editor Neal Rogers and online editor at large Patrick O’Grady contributed to this story.