News feature, July 29, 2006
Next stop for Landis, Larry King
By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
Floyd Landis is making the rounds of the popular talk programmes in the U.S., trying to get in front of the public relations fire storm that has erupted over the positive sample he gave after stage 17 of the Tour de France. And no PR swing in the U.S. would be complete without the seemingly required stop on CNN's Larry King Live! On the programme, Landis reiterated the defense he has been using over the past twenty-four hours, while the producers lined up additional supporting cast.
In the interview with King, Landis once again began by playing the teacher, explaining the process of drug testing in the sport of cycling to a national audience that would have likely forgotten about the Tour by now. After going through these formalities, King took some sharper angles in the questioning, asking what the benefit of high testosterone would be for a racer. Landis coyly replied, "That is a good question that you'll have to ask the doctors if they're here at this moment. I think they can better answer that."
Landis continued his retort to King's probe about effects of testosterone. "You know contrary to what may be the perception of the public, I along with the majority of bicycle racers are not experts on what possible doping products could do to make you a better bicycle racer. In the last two days since this transpired I have done my best to learn as much as possible but I've been overwhelmed more by the personal things dealing with people, like my mother for example who now has to go through something she never deserved to go through."
King then focused on the events of the day that coincided with the positive test, and how that has gone from one of the brightest days in Tour history to potentially the darkest. "I think that part of hurts my argument," said Landis. "Again, I was tested six times before that and two times afterwards, all of them -- I don't receive the results when they're negative so I don't know exactly what the numbers were but all of them were within normal ranges. But, yes, I think the performance, which by the way I'm very proud of, probably makes it more suspicious."
Mid-way through the interview, the programme brought on Lance Armstrong via telephone to comment on the situation. "All I can say, without knowing the specifics of his case and just sticking to the facts that I know is what I know about Floyd, if we ever suspected anything, if there was suspicious behavior or anything to lead us to believe he was a cheater, then we would have parted ways long before we did. And when he did leave he left for a better offer from another team and we had to respect that."
Then Armstrong went on another tack, a self-admitted conspiracy theory one. "Keep it in mind the laboratory here that found this abnormal reading is the same lab that I've been involved in with all the allegations over in France. And this is the same lab that through the independent investigation and that process would not answer the simplest of questions to the independent investigator about the ethics of what they did and who conducted the testing and what conditions were -- they were done under. You know I'm a little skeptical of this particular laboratory and the report backs up that skepticism."
Following Armstrong was Floyd's personal physician, Dr. Brent Kay who attempted to clear up some of the misunderstandings related to the positive -- first clearly stating that the situation is not that Landis has a high testosterone level, and then continuing with other possible misconceptions. "I think everybody really needs to take a step back and look at what we're talking about because testosterone is a body-building steroid that builds mass. It builds mass over long term use of weeks, months, and even years. And, it's crazy to think that a Tour de France professional cyclist would be using testosterone, particularly in the middle of a race. It's a joke. Every sports medicine expert, physician, trainer, scientist that I've talked to in the last day really same opinion, no way, this is a joke."
Dr. Kay continued his attacks on the process side of the situation, saying that the test is out of date and inaccurate. "On the front page of the technical document on the World Anti Doping Association web site, to paraphrase, they basically say this is a poor test and has problems with inaccuracy."
An email from a viewer asked about his parents and their thrust into the world view with the media exposure. "Yesterday, I had to deal with a situation where there was a lot of press at my mother's house, and it hurt me a lot, because she lives a simple life. That's the way they want to live, it makes them happy and they don't deserve to deal with this. It wasn't my doing that brought this on them, but it was an incidental thing due to what happened to me that brings them into it. And I had a bit of an emotional conversation with my mom, because I felt awful about the situation."
"I felt much better after speaking with my mom, because she's tough, too. Both of them are tough, and they can handle it. But I think I felt worse just because of me, because I felt like they had to answer question that they didn't know how to answer, and they should never have been brought into this in the first place. And I blame the press more. It was partly my fault for not being available to talk, but I was trying to collect my thoughts. And so they went to the first people they can think of, and so be it, they went to my parents, and yeah, I felt bad, but they'll be OK."
King also asked Landis if he would continue in the sport -- presumably either if he is sanctioned for a positive test or if he makes it through with only his credibility called into question. "I'd love to continue in the sport. It's been my passion and my dream and it's a beautiful sport. And I think the people who were watching, even if they're not cyclists themselves, were -- were caught in the moment and I think it was something special to watch. It certainly was something special to be part of. I would love to keep racing and I'm going to do my best to defend my dignity and my innocence."
The Larry king Live show has made the full transcript of the interview available at transcripts.cnn.com.