Thursday, December 3, 2009

Positively False - Floyd Landis's Book

floyd landis was the 2006 tour de france winner. period. i now believe that he won clean. i just finished his book positively false - the real story of how i won the tour de france. it was a good quick read that i highly recommend. if you watched that tour, or are a fan of the sport you will devour this book.

i'll recap some of the things i found interesting. floyd grew up a mennonite and has basically been training since he was 8 years old. he started with mountain bike racing. he even mentions his first experience racing with professionals in a 24hr mtn bike race with my buddy john stamstad. from there he wreaked havoc in the road peloton until he got a professional contract.

john actually joined floyd's defense team when he was attempting to prove that he hadn't used illegal performance enhancing drugs during the 2006 tour de france. the way he was portrayed in the media was reproachable.  we all convicted him before any of the evidence was presented, with the "they all do it" attitude.  that was a shame, but an arbitration system that works would have allowed him to defend himself properly and prove his innocence.  unfortunately lives are ruined and a clean athlete has no way to defend from the inevitable mistake.  not ONE athlete has won their arbitration case... not one.. EVER.

floyd was a domestique for lance armstrong in 2002-2004 and was an integral part of two of lance's tour de france victories. what he writes about those years on the postal service team doesn't make lance or team director johan bruneel sound like very nice guys. however he admits that he and dave zabriskie were "dumb and dumber" as lance used to call them. tension and floyd's improving performance sent him to team phonak and a better deal.

one thing that fascinated me most in the book was floyd's description of his training. he once road 24,000 miles in a single year. that is an average of 500 mile weeks.. all year! i've done a couple 400 mile weeks in my day back when i raced bikes. it's hard. real hard. i would liken 500 road biking miles to 100 miles of running in a week. now i realize i'm no floyd landis, but just the thought of averaging 500 miles for a year really is borderline unbelievable. he mentions that lance and johan actually didn't believe him, so i'm not the only one that impressed. he also states plainly that he wasn't much fun to be around because literally all he did was ride hard, and rest even harder. spending non saddle time exclusively on the couch taking naps.

having watched the greatest single day performance on a bike live on television i was eager to get to floyd's description of his stage 17 at the 2006 tour de france. this stage is the day he tested positive and is often used as the obvious example of his enhanced performance. it's been analyzed at this point from every angle. a couple of things, besides the alleged synthetic testosterone (which actually wouldn't have helped on that day) enabled floyd to have that amazing performance. his team launched him off the front, ahead of the peloton. so he rode alone in the 102 degree heat. this allowed him to have a team car hand him bottle after bottle. in fact he went through 65 bottles, only drinking 16. the rest he repeatedly dumped on his head. which they believe allowed him to create a micro-climate around himself a good 30 degrees cooler than the other riders in the peloton. and we know that a hydrated person doesn't have to work as hard (meaning they require fewer heart beats) as a dehydrated person to achieve the same power numbers or output. they have also compared his power numbers to previous days in the tour and to some of the data from his bigger training sessions. there is nothing out of the ordinary. in fact stage 17 was not unique as far as power numbers go for floyd, it was no anomaly. but the situation made it the most dramatic day in tour history and i believe he was clean.

i won't get into all the reasons i believe this, but there are many and most center around the incompetence of the french lab. he had 9 tests during the tour and only 1 day came up positive. it's my understanding that if he doped with synthetic testosterone it would not and could not be clear from his system that fast. the french lab technician admitted she knew it was floyd's sample while she was doing the test. commentator phil liggett called this "unscrupulous to say the least". there was also the small fact that they mislabeled the samples, and throughout the testing results actually use the wrong test tube numbers. numbers that weren't associated with floyd's. it's not a stretch to say the french lab botched the test.

i fully realize i drank the coolaid. floyd's book had the desired effect on me. since writing the above book review i've since done a bit of digging around. there is obviously a convincing story to the contrary and it will be fun to read the other side of things. lance armstrong fans will recognize(and likely hate) the name david walsh. he wrote from lance to landis - inside the american doping controversy at the tour de france. i read an excerpt from his book and all i can say is, wow, he doesn't pull any punches.

if floyd is innocent this is the greatest sports tragedy of all time, surpassing what bill buckner did.


saschasdad said...

I love how you admit to drinking the coolaid - awesome! I would like to do some research on both sides of the story and read both books about it. Even if I still wasn't convinced either way after it all, it sounds like fun detective work for cycling fans.

dj said...

I followed this case very closely for a long time. I was in France at the Col de Avaris the day Floyd won stage 17 and the Tour, probably the most exciting day in TdF history. I stood in line to get my book signed by Floyd when he visited Seattle. (He signed it "just say "no" to epo.")
I followed daily two very good blogs: and
It's a very complicated case and only Floyd knows but I would say 80% innocent/20% guilty. I just don't know for sure. What I do know, he's a super nice guy and a great cyclist.

JWW said...

I really don't know what to believe in this case. All the french labs seem to botch tests - everyone is always innocent then they are not - everyone in the peloton is dirty - etc etc etc.

I want to believe in professional cycling - hell I used to race against Floyd in his mountain bike NORBA national days (I wasn't even close). What is a shame for me is that on that day I watched on TV what may be the most exciting, daring (?) move in professional cycling - the look on the leaders faces as Floyd pulled away and they looked to each other about whether or not to chase was classic. The excitement was ruined days later when the news of the tests came back.

I am still a fan but I almost feel like I shouldn't be - they have just broken my trust too many times. And this trust goes beyond just those using drugs but also the system (screwy labs, faulty arbitration system, etc)