Friday, May 21, 2010

Cycling tragedy

I'm applying the word "tragedy" to the personal case of Floyd Landis. After getting over the initial shock of his turnabout, I'm left with a puzzling query: What has caused Landis to make his confession, nearly four years after his personal eviction from the Tour? Although I don't claim to have any firm answers to this question, I believe that we're confronted with an individual who's probably in a dark state of both anguish and anger.

I've heard (without being able to verify such things) that Landis has lost his fortune, his home and his family while trying to prove that he was unjustly deprived of his Tour title. Meanwhile, last year, he saw the organizers of the Tour de France invite his old teammate Lance Armstrong back into the legendary race. Not only is Armstrong present as a welcome guest, but he's surrounded by an aura of veneration through his sporting determination and longevity, and through his work in the domain of cancer care. To say the least, Landis is surely bitter, and an observer might well imagine that yesterday's sensational turnabout was inspired by rage and revenge.

Up until the last moment, the organizers of the Tour de France will retain the right to exclude certain riders, or even an entire team, from the event that starts on 3 July 2010. Decisions at that level will surely represent the moment of verity of this whole affair, because the organizers probably have a pretty good idea, by now, of where the truth lies… and where the future interests of the Tour de France lie. If the Tour organizers say it's OK for Armstrong to participate, then the Texan will be permanently vindicated, and Landis will be cast more deeply than ever into outer darkness.

Maybe, though, I should not have included the word "permanently" in that last sentence. The evolution of technical knowledge and experience about doping and relevant testing is advancing in ways that remind me (metaphorically) of the progress of DNA tests in forensic medicine. If physiologists have the impression that certain situations still remain suspicious, they'll certainly retain the urine and blood samples while science and technology strive to catch up with the breakaway bunch.

For Armstrong, yesterday was an eventful day, in more ways than one:

The latest news is that he didn't break any bones in this crash in California.

This morning, I came upon a interesting American viewpoint on the Landis revelations: an article by Michael Rosenberg entitled Latest accusation makes it hard not to believe Lance Armstrong doped up [display]. The journalist concludes: The American people seem to believe Lance Armstrong is a cancer-fighting activist instead of another athlete who used performance-enhancing drugs. But you know what? He might be both.

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