By Jason Sumner, VeloNews.com
Floyd Landis took the witness stand in his own defense Saturday, saying that Greg LeMond misinterpreted his words and that he had nothing to do with a phone call his business manager made to the three-time Tour de France champion on the eve of his testimony at Landis’s arbitration hearing.
Landis also denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs, and said his 2006 Tour victory was the product of hard work and determination.
“It’s a matter of who I am,” said Landis during direct questioning from attorney Howard Jacobs, who concluded by asking Landis to explain why the three-man arbitration panel should believe he didn’t use synthetic testosterone to win the Tour. “There’s no purpose in cheating to win the Tour de France because I wouldn’t be proud of it.”
That brought a close to day six of the nine-day hearing at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. Sunday is an off day, but more intrigue may unfold on Monday when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency legal team seems likely to get its chance to cross-examine Landis.
Regardless of the outcome, which will either see Landis exonerated or stripped of his title and suspended for two years, he says the real damage has already been done.
“It will forever be connected to me,” Landis said. “Any time the Tour comes up or bicycle racing, I can’t imagine how that will ever change.”
Landis v. LeMond: The rebuttal
Landis first took the stand just before 4 p.m., and spent most of the next hour recalling his journey from rural Pennsylvania to the Champs-Elysees. It was a familiar story for anyone who attended one of the dozens of Floyd Fairness Fund gatherings, as Landis talked of nighttime training rides during his youth, winning his first mountain bike race, and finally the dramatic days at last year’s Tour, when he bonked on stage 16, then clawed his way back into GC contention a day later and went on to win the race. But this was all just feel-good window dressing for more important matters.
After recalling first hearing of his positive doping test from stage 17, Landis detailed his version of a phone conversation he had with LeMond in August 2006, rebutting the three-time Tour champ’s testimony on Thursday, when LeMond said that Landis had implicitly confessed to doping.
Landis said he decided to call LeMond after reading that he had said Landis should admit his guilt and try to clean up cycling.
“I had looked up to him,” Landis said. “Not as a hero, but he won the Tour and I knew what it took. I wanted to see if he’d talk to me if he had something to say.”
After convincing LeMond that the call was not a prank, Landis said, the pair had a lengthy conversation.
“He said he knew Lance [Armstrong] doped and he said he was sure that I doped because he’d seen results,” Landis said. “I told him I didn’t do it and that it wouldn’t make sense to admit something I didn’t do, and if I did what positive outcome would there be?”
From there, according to Landis, the conversation turned to LeMond’s past, and his tale of being sexually abused as a child.
“I was traumatized. I didn’t know what to say when he told me,” said Landis. “I was glad to talk but couldn’t possibly relate. I told him I was sorry and that he was free to call me anytime.”
Landis said he forgot about the incident until November, when he read stories quoting LeMond as having said that Landis had confessed to him during the aforementioned phone call.
That led to the now-infamous Internet posting where Landis wrote in part that, “If LeMond ever opens his mouth again and the word Floyd comes out, I will tell you all some things that you will wish you didn’t know and unfortunately I will have entered the race to the bottom which is now in progress.”
That brought another phone call, this time from LeMond to Landis.
“I didn’t want to talk again and asked him what he wanted. He wasn’t happy,” recalled Landis. “What I wrote [on the Internet] wasn’t wise. I’m sorry that I alluded to [what happened in his childhood], but he said I’m writing a book, so I could say whatever I wanted to. Then I tried to clarify that I did not admit to using testosterone, but he said he remembered differently. I said that’s not what happened, but no matter what I would not divulge [his secret] to the public.”
The pair of Tour champions’ paths did not cross again until Thursday.
The phone call
Landis then turned his attention to events surrounding another phone call, this one from his business manager, Will Geoghegan, to LeMond, in which callous references were made to LeMond’s painful childhood.
On Thursday, LeMond claimed he received a threatening phone call on Wednesday that he believed was meant to dissuade him from testifying at the hearing. Geoghegan later conceded that he had made the call, saying that he was “angry” and had “drunk a beer or two,” but was not trying to intimidate LeMond. Geoghegan was fired on Thursday, and has not been back to the Pepperdine courtroom since.
According to Landis, the call took place while he, Geoghegan and other members of the Landis entourage were having dinner at their hotel.
“It was a pretty large room, as big this courtroom,” Landis testified. “We weren’t sitting right next to each other.”
Landis said he didn’t know Geoghegan was going to make the call, and that he didn’t understand what had happened until he followed his business manager up to his hotel room and overheard him on the phone with LeMond.
The full timeline of events was never made precisely clear. But the impression was that Geoghegan first called LeMond during dinner and only left the table after LeMond called back several times. Landis said he told Geoghegan they needed to talk to [lead defense attorney] Maurice [Suh] right away, but he wasn’t at the hotel.
When exactly Landis told Geoghegan or anyone else about LeMond’s secret was unclear.
“It was awful having to tell that story in first place,” said Landis. “To make light of that is terrible.”
Catlin takes the stand
Before Landis took the stand, USADA wrapped up its case, calling its final two witnesses. First up was German scientist Wilhelm Schnazer, the director of a Cologne-based testing lab. Schnazer backed up previous USADA witness testimony about the veracity of the results, and he spoke specifically about the effects of synthetic testosterone.
“There is a high variation,” he said alluding to the critical ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone that is the first step in uncovering illicit testosterone use. “There are many cases when [testosterone] is not seen by routine screening methods.”
This line of reasoning from Schnazer was USADA’s way of countering the Landis side argument that the stage 17 test result was flawed because it was the only time during the Tour that one of his samples exceeded the allowed 4-to-1 T/E ratio.
Because of a $400 cost differential, only samples that exceed that ratio are subjected to the more sophisticated carbon isotope ratio test. That test was used in April on Landis’s seven other Tour samples, and according to USADA, four returned positive readings for synthetic testosterone.
After Schnazer, it was Dr. Don Catlin’s turn. The former director of UCLA’s Olympic analytical lab said that his overall impression of the IRMS testing done on Landis’s samples left no doubt that “doping was going on. It’s just inescapable.”
Catlin did concede some doubt, admitting he would “report them as positive” but write a side letter to the client and explain that the sample is positive according to WADA criteria but not his own lab’s standards. Catlin also said that in his opinion “a low dose of testosterone could enhance one’s ability to recover from major exercise.”
Under cross examination, Landis lead attorney Suh centered on the pressure lab directors such as Catlin sometimes face from WADA power brokers. In 2006, the former UCLA lab boss testified on behalf of skeleton racer Zach Lund, who was barred from Olympic competition because he took an anti-balding medicine that contains an agent that is on the WADA banned list.
“I don’t think WADA was very happy,” Catlin said. “They told me it wasn’t a good idea to do that.”