Landis in Denial

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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

I'm sure you've heard quite enough of Floyd Landis over the last week. But I just can't help myself. I keep wondering what's being whispered within his innermost circle at the moment. The same way I wondered just what O.J. Simpson told Al Cowlings that day they were speeding around on the LA freeways in the white Bronco. Was/is O.J. in utter denial, a true sociopath, out of touch with the reality of what he had done? Or was/is he plenty aware... and did he spill his guts to his buddy Al Cowlings that day in the Bronco? Agreed, the comparison of crimes is absurd. There's no bringing a double murder into the same conversation with cheating in the Tour de France. But it's the issue of denial I'm talking about.

If Floyd Landis never ingested or injected a synthetic steroid and his tests are faulty, he must be close to insane with the injustice of his reputation being trashed, not to mention the loss of his precious Tour de France title. But from what we know of his tests, two samples having confirmed that he indeed did take a synthetic steroid, only two scenarios remain. One, Landis is in deep denial. His training was so grueling, the demands of preparing for the toughest endurance race on Earth were so all-consuming, that popping a few performance pills went by like a non-event, a momentary hiccup in the big scheme of things. The other scenario is that Landis knows exactly when and how that steroid entered his body.

Just as Barry Bonds has long been known to be a meticulous athlete, precise in every aspect of his training, and we find it hard to suspend our disbelief when he says some guy gave him something called The Clear and another something called The Cream and he just slapped them on in blind good faith... just as the fastest sprinter in the world, Justin Gatlin, facing a lifetime ban from track and field for his own positive steroid test, a man also fastidious in his regimen of nutrition and stretching and pliometrics, is asking us to believe that an evil masseur rubbed a mysterious substance into his muscles... now the winner of the Tour de France, surrounded with a high-tech team of exercise physiologists who are adept in keeping a cyclist's glycogen levels stable enough to perform under the extreme duress of the sport, is telling us that the science is flawed... or that there's a conspiracy against him.

If there was one trainer, one doctor, one teammate, perhaps even his wife, who was there with him when he took the stuff, what are they thinking now? Are they freaking out together behind closed doors, assuring each other that they had done it just right so that he never should have tested positive? Has anyone in his camp deigned to suggest to him that the only noble way out of this whopping mess is to be a brave man and confess? Nothing Landis will do can save his career. But if he humbly spilled the beans and told the world exactly how he went about it, what drugs he took in what way at what time, with the hopes of achieving what, we would listen with rapt attention and be grateful to finally understand just how tightly these drugs pull the elite athlete today and who the parties are who enable these athletes to both cheat and to jeopardize their long-term health.

If you're disenchanted to learn that the so-called champions of cycling, track and field, and baseball are achieving these outstanding performances on juice, not their own sheer will and genetic gifts, you may be flabbergasted to learn that yet another sport is reeling with the discovery of cheating. Yes, two men were thrown out of the recent World Open Chess Championships, both accused of using electronic devices and wireless ear pieces to tap into computer moves as they played. Beware, even that next gambit, when a player slides his rook up to challenge the white Queen, could be a cheat.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.



Diana Nyad