Tour de France Tragic Death

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

Floyd Landis, last year's winner of the Tour de France...well, the winner for three days of intoxicating French Champagne celebrations until allegations of his cheating hit so hard it was as if the Arc de Triomphe crushed him and his bike...Floyd Landis is today in a Malibu courtroom fighting for his name. The arbitration, a mountain of scientific evidence being presented with the intent to prove that he took synthetic testosterone on his way to the Champs Elysees last summer, will take some ten days and then a decision will come down two weeks after that.

You could compare the Landis case to Barry Bonds in baseball. The two top dogs of each sport under the doping microscope, doubt about the validity of their achievements surrounding their every move. And further comparisons pop up between current investigations in both sports. A former Mets trainer is about to spill the guts of his ten years of peddling performance enhancing drugs to Major Leaguers. A long list of erstwhile clean-cut boys of summer will surface and Bonds will no longer be the lone baseball dope hanging out to dry. Cycling is also in the midst of an extensive probe into more than a hundred elite cyclists who have been caught up in the culture of illegal chemical enhancement over the last decade.

The difference here is that, no matter what the federal investigation reveals as to doping in baseball, the sport will continue to thrive. The analogy is football. Amphetamines, aka "greenies" and steroids, aka "roids," swept into the NFL culture in the late '50's, then into the 60's and 70's. There was a Chiefs player named Jim Tyrrer who was tough as they come. But he ran to the sideline during one game and said to the team trainer, "Hey, I'm as big and bad as that guy across from me, but he's blowing fire out his nostrils. He's running over me like a tractor...and he's laughing at me while he's doing it. I want you to get me whatever he's on, pronto." And that's how greenies and roids spread through the NFL. One guy plays out of his head on some unnatural stuff and the next guy feels he can't keep up without jacking up on the same stuff.

NFL brass knew amphetamines and steroids were a problem in the league and they instituted testing. But we would be naive not to surmise that quite a few of the greats who have gone into the Pro Football Hall of Fame were eating more than Wheaties at the breakfast training table.

Baseball is now coming down the same road the NFL traveled a couple of decades ago. They are realizing a number of their own have added size and power through chemical manipulation and they're pressing to institute testing to curb the problem. Yes, baseball has suffered a chink in its armor, vis a vis public trust. But the overall impression is that players are on the up-and-up, even that steroids haven't much helped the ones we know used them. Look at Jason Giambi.

But cycling. Cycling is in full-blown crisis.

Television contracts are in jeopardy. Sponsors are dropping. At least a third of the team of domestiques who helped Lance Armstrong to his first Tour de France victory in 1999 have either directly confessed to doping or have received sanctions for doping. One hundred riders of last year's pelleton have been accused of doping. The sport's two big stars, both perched to inherit Armstrong's mantle, Germany's Jan Ullrich and Italy's Ivan Basso, have been banned from their teams and will likely never race again. We are about to discover that doping has been de rigeur in this sport for quite some time. We are about to suspect that there have been few clean riders at all for quite some time.

It's taken decades but the science has finally caught up to the cheaters. The jig is up. It's a sad, even tragic, time for cycling and this summer's Tour de France is fading from the headlines before the pelleton even approaches the first climb in the Pyrennes.

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



Diana Nyad