I have spent a good deal of my summer leisure time, since moving to Switzerland, following the several Tours de France, either on TV or by cycling to the closer passages, in the Cols of the Haute Savoie, or les montagnes Jura.
For better or worse, I've regaled in watching Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, and Floyd Landis, not to mention Ivan Basso, Laurent Jalabert, Alex Zülle and many others...
I have had a streak, not enjoyable, in which riders I would 'discover' personally, based on early-season successes in the Tours of Romandie, or Tours de Suisse, would later be tested positive, and sinking my heart. It became numbingly routine to watch, as the Pantanis, Savoldellis, Frigos and many more, one-by-one, took the fall from ever-more effective and pervasive testing: which I ENDORSE.
But there comes a time, or a case, when... more than 'gut feeling'; when your heart, maybe, doesn't want to accept that which the world is screaming for: Death to Floyd LANDIS: doper.
But a law degree, curiosity and competent knowledge of the situation in the heart of the French fight against doping, combines to render incredulous the situation standing against the winner of the 2006 Tour de France.Curiously the French have only undertaken this quest since the banishment of French-based, world champion team: FESTINA, outcast during le Tour Noir of 1998, when its trainer was caught with a station-wagon full of EPO and other 'race candies', and witnessed the second-greatest denial of the 1990s, when Richard Virenque denied (with the force of Bill Clinton's assertions) any involvement in le dopage.
In quest of a Tour winner who races 'on clear water' (“à l'eau claire”), in the face of a true epic champion NOT from France, in search of the forensic, medical and scientific recognition as being on the forefront of la lutte antidopage, the French Ministry of Sport worked extensively to promote its National Laboratory, the Châtenay-Malabry Laboratoire Nationale du Dépistage du Dopage, under the direction of Professeur Jacques De Ceaurriz.
How has their quest fared?
In the years of Lance's reign, from 1999 to 2006, the number of days in which French riders have worn the coveted Yellow Jersey (“Maillot Jaune”) have been dominated by two anamolous events, both produced by fluke weather. In 2001, a cold rainy stage to Pontarlier brought victory to Erik Dekker, and the Maillot Jaune to François Simone; in 2004 and similarly, Thomas Voelker won both stage 5 and the Maillot Jaune when circumstances allowed another record-setting breakaway.
What was most curious of these French riders, was the way they each lost: persistently, ploddingly, ... 'heroically', the precious minutes that were separating them from LANCE and his 'Posties' were disappearing, day after day, climb after climb.
The world watched, as the French could not face up to the onslaught of Lance and his Boys...
I took this photo on the Col de la Faucille, and below is a PARODY insinuation of what I thought I heard them saying...
In 2006, the entire cycling world was re-energized. Those who called themselves fans or supporters of Lance Armstrong, finally joined those who had never liked him: for his arrogance, dominance or those whispered and NEVER-proven rumours of substance abuse; in 2006 the entire cycling world awaited the first post-Lance Tour de France.
NB: The Tour de France has never been won by a Grand Champion in the years ending in xxx6!
And was this Tour ripe with talent, as the cycling world balanced the evident strengths, and known or unknown weaknesses of those Ullrichs, Vinokarovs, Bassos, and others, Floyd Landis being considered one of the strongest 'outsiders'.
But 'disaster' struck this Tour.
“L'Affaire Operación Puerto” arose out of allegations produced in Spain, implicating known and 'presumed' clients of Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, clients whose 'programs' were inscribed, often in code, in a mysterious book whose inferences to EPO and other programs invited insidious reactions.
Without a true whimper, teams like powerhouse Deutsche Telekom, and CSC suspended or fired their best hopes for a new Tour Victory.
Let's skip through the repercussions of Puerto, and the early stages that led across France, through the Pyrennees and around the Alpes. The 'stage' was set for what became perhaps the most epic stage in any race of recent times.
Floyd Landis, who had 'bonked' in Stage 16, began the 17th Stage in heatwave conditions, took a tactical decision to launch himself into an incredible breakaway, crossing five veritable mountain passes in an amazing breakaway, reaching Morzine (NB: the author was 110m from the finish line in Morzine) some seven minutes before his main rivals, especially Oscar Pereiro, nearly perfectly erasing his prior day's total collapse. He ended that day 30 seconds behind.
That day was sooo hot, that I stopped my ride to Morzine to swim au naturel in the cold mountain river, La Dranse, that exits from Morzine, at 09h30!!! How hot was it for the Tour riders who'd only begun their warmup kilometers?
Like the assassination of John F Kennedy, we may never know what really happened that day, if Floyd Landis was as innocent as he has claimed to be.
Because that which we are able to know, is this: the lab in which his samples were tested, had just previously been seriously compromised by two incompatible forces: an amazing series of leaked confidential testing situations; and an overpowering governmental ambition to singlehandedly eliminate doping within the French National symbol which the Tour de France represents.
These situations came into a nexus of disrepute with the publication in L'Equipe, the French national sports newspaper, born in the Forties and major influence for the Tour, of an article in August 2005 casting insinuations towards Lance Armstrong, and his 'EPO use during the 1999 Tour'.
The crisis that followed instigated and produced one of the great investigations of our time, sadly only incomplete due to interference, and unkept promises, by three of the accusing parties: the director of the Châtenay-Malabry laboratoire, his superiors in the French Ministry of Sport (Note that the Ministry's site devoted to clean sport shows documents from 2005!!!), and the collaborating and nearly-illegal coverup performed within WADA. That was instituted by appointment of an independent investigator from the Netherlands, under authority of the Union de Cyclisme International (UCI).
And it goes without saying, that the results of this investigation have not received 1/100th of the attention from the world's sporting press, as much as those findings indict every player that was involved in both the false accusations against Lance Armstrong in 2006, regarding his 1999 Tour, and the anomalous Stage 17 test-results that were blasted across the planet against Floyd Landis, the resulting cacaphony of lynch-mob journalism, and potentially career-ending disciplinary action.
Consider the UCI investigator's summary conclusions, of which:
“The refusal by the LNDD, the French Ministry and WADA to provide documents and information that are necessary for the proper conduct of a complete investigation is extremely troubling and is inconsistent with the principles of the Olympic Movement. The fact that WADA President Dick Pound and the LNDD’s Professor De Ceaurriz were willing to discuss the research project and its results in great detail with the media, while they at the same time were unwilling to cooperate with a proper investigation by the organization with jurisdiction over this matter, raises substantial questions regarding their reasons for doing so and makes one wonder as to what complete cooperation would disclose.”
Let's consider just that last sentence clause again: “makes one wonder as to what complete cooperation would disclose.”
There is no doubt what complete denial of access to documents and evidence requested by LNDD, WADA and the French Ministry of Sport will incur: perpetual belief that emanations from mouths, the likes of Dick Pound, Professeur de Ceaurriz and L'Equipe have credibility.
We will never know, maybe, why the French Ministry didn't cooperate with an investigation into the methodology and results issued by a division of its governmental portfolio.
Never will we know how the report against Lance (and some six other anonymous riders) was leaked to L'Equipe. Nor will we know why WADA called for disciplinary hearings to be undertaken by the UCI, against one multiple-Tour winning racer, without clarifying its own nebulous rôle in the illegal accusations, based on unknown and UNAUTHORIZED 'accelerated' testing methodologies, proffered against Lance Armstrong.
Until we know whether WADA and Dick Pound have convinced LNDD to circumvent appropriate procedures, or otherwise that LNDD and the French Ministry of Sport have hoodwinked WADA and Dick Pound into promoting a supercilious and scurillous campaign against 'les Américains', reason stands aside to character assassination and no racer can hope to survive this new era of non-standard testing hidden within the skirts of a dirty whore: WADA.