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Benson: Lance Armstrong versus Floyd Landis

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Benson: Lance Armstrong versus Floyd Landis
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Floyd Landis rode his bicycle for the United States Postal Team for three years, from 2002­2004, alongside his teammate, Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France each of those years.

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Floyd admits now that during those three years, he cowered to Lance. It was known that “Lance called the shots on the team,” and “what Lance said went.” “He ran his team like a high-powered corporation.”

Lance wanted to win big, and he did so by doping himself and his teammates. In 1995, Lance had lost a race, and afterwards he told his teammates, “I’m getting kicked and we’ve got to do something about it. We need to get on a program.” He hired Dr. Michele Ferrari, a doping expert, who began to administer synthetic erythropoietin (EPO), a drug that stimulates red blood cell production and can “inflate an athlete’s aerobic capacity by 8 percent.”

In addition, Ferrari prescribed testosterone, cortisone and blood transfusions to boost oxygen levels.

“The doping regimen was as rigorous as any training or nutrition plan,” and those with a conscience, those who refused to cooperate, Lance cut from the team, saying that “they were not a team player.”

When winning his seven Tour de France races between 1999 and 2005, Lance displayed a ruthless disregard for others. One enemy he made said, “He treats people like bananas. He takes what he needs, then just tosses the peel on the side of the road.” Girlfriends, his wife, teammates and a series of cyclists he cast aside, one after another, without a hesitant thought. His discard pile stands tall.

In 2005, Floyd Landis chose to ride with another team, Phonak, after he was offered a better contract. During the Tour de France that year, a feud broke out between Landis and Armstrong, who were heard shouting at each other. Armstrong won the race and then retired from competitive racing.

In 2006, without Armstrong to compete against, Landis won the Tour de France, but then he tested positive for synthetic testosterone and authorities stripped him of the title and banned him from racing for two years. Landis felt devastated and confused. Why was he punished but not Lance Armstrong, who had cheated and won seven years in a row?

On June 10, 2010, four years ago, Floyd Landis blew the whistle. He filed a lawsuit against Armstrong, and provided testimony to the United States Anti­Doping Agency (USADA) of the extent of Armstrong’s doping. Two years later the Department of Justice filed a second lawsuit against Armstrong, demanding a refund of the $41 million that the Postal Service paid to sponsor his team. If successful in its lawsuit, the federal government could collect treble damages, over $120 million.

When it was known that Floyd Landis stood to receive up to thirty percent of the government’s proceeds because of his role as the whistle­blower, Armstrong said, “This news that Floyd Landis is in this for the money reconfirms everything we all knew about Landis. By his own admission, he is a serious liar, an epic cheater, and a swindler who raised a million dollars from his loyal fans based on his lies.” By then, Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis were bitter enemies.

Then, the tide turned. Landis’s testimony and the government’s investigation overwhelmed Lance Armstrong and his supporters. After years of doping, lies to cover it up, bullying his teammates and threatening retaliation to all those who dared accuse him of drug use, Lance Armstrong announced on Aug. 23, 2012, that he would surrender his fight with the USADA.

“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say ‘Enough is enough.’ For me that time is now.” The next day the USADA announced that they would strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and ban him from cycling for life.

Travis Tygart, chief executive of USADA, said, “The evidence shows beyond doubt that the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that the sport had ever seen.” Lance’s corporate sponsors fired him.

In January 2013, Lance appeared on Oprah Winfrey and confessed the truth.

“I am deeply flawed, and I’m paying the price for it, and I think that’s OK. I deserve this.” He said that he did so because of a “ruthless desire to win, that the level that it went to, for whatever reason, is a flaw.”

The two law suits are ongoing, but Lance has settled other lawsuits out of court. He may negotiate.

Floyd Landis is from Farmersville, Pennsylvania, was born on Oct. 14, 1975, stands 5-feet-10-inches, and weighs 150 pounds. Lance Armstrong is from Plano, Texas, was born on Sep. 18, 1971, stands 5 feet 9 ½ inches tall, and weighs 165 pounds. Other than the fact that one is from the North and the other is from the South, the two men share much in common. Both love to race bicycles.

Too often in this life, justice is a fantasy. The innocent are jailed, the guilty are voted innocent, and, if the truth comes out, it is too late to make a difference or restore a reputation. What can we take from the Armstrong­ Landis feud? In Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong made one too many enemies.

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