Armstrong set own fate by turning against Floyd

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10/23/2012| 1 comment
by Neil Browne
The Lance Armstrong legacy may not have been burned down to the foundation if Floyd had been given a nicer Trek Fotoreporter Sirotti

Armstrong set own fate by turning against Floyd

It was just a couple of inconsequential incidents that brought down a sport legacy.

By now you’ve probably either read about or watched Monday’s UCI press conference. We all held our breath for how the UCI might rule. Would they strip Lance Armstrong of his seven Tours de France champion titles or would they fight USADA’s recommendation and take it to CAS, the supreme court of sports? To assume that the sport’s governing body would make a logical ruling is a leap of faith. Honestly. I wasn’t sure how they would rule.

“The UCI will ban Lance Armstrong from cycling and the UCI will strip him of his seven titles. Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling,” is what UCI president Pat McQuaid told a room full of journalists.

With that statement Armstrong’s results from August 1st 1998 were gone. If you had an autographed Armstrong yellow jersey I hope you were smart enough to eBay it before the market dropped out. As a rule disgraced professional athlete memorabilia doesn’t sell for as much post-scandal.

Beyond the affidavits and the USADA report it’s odd how professional cycling got to the place it’s in right now – a seven time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor completely stripped of his sporting awards as well as his dignity. The funny thing is it’s a combination of a domestic pro racer with so-so results who was a sloppy doper (Kayle LeoGrande) and Floyd Landis believing that he hadn’t been treated fairly.

As it was pointed out in the New York Times this whole crap storm of a doping scandal came about due to LeoGrande being a crappy tenant. He was moving out of his apartment and left his performance enhancing drugs in the refrigerator. The landlord found them and called LeoGrande to have him pick them up. The heavily tattooed LeoGrande said he didn’t want to and from there the ball started to roll. Food and Drug Administration agent Jeff Novitzky was called in and he started working his way up the doping food chain. At this point it was still considered a domestic doping problem, but that situation soon escalated when LeoGrande started talking, pointing his finger at European racing.

Another rather small happening that got the doping scandal started was Landis was made to feel like a second class citizen on the US Postal Team. He wasn’t given the best team equipment and he was not afraid to let Bruyneel know what he thought of that. While Landis wouldn’t agree with me, I think both he and Armstrong are very similar – both Alpha Dogs and not afraid to let people know their unwavering point of view. A pack can’t have two dominant leaders and it was destined to end badly.

After serving his two-year suspension for doping in the 2006 Tour de France, Floyd thought he was going to return to European racing in what is now called the World Tour. Armstrong made a comment saying that it would be interesting if Landis returned to the team, fueling speculation that they would be teammates again.

Privately Armstrong and Landis couldn’t stand one another, so there was no way those two would ever be teammates again. But if Armstrong had swallowed a bit of pride and hired Landis to Discovery Channel and then the Astana team, Landis wouldn’t have written the e-mail that described the US Postal Team’s doping protocol. This bombshell of an e-mail went out during the 2010 Amgen Tour of California and changed the tone of the race. Armstrong crashed out of the stage that day, and quickly got the hell out of town and away from pesky journalists. This was just the start of Landis’ scorched earth policy.

Silencing Landis could have easily happened a couple of years previously if he’d been brought back to the squad. The two could’ve raced on separate programs and would only have had to see each other a few times out of the whole season. Instead Armstrong wanted to screw over Landis one more time and flicked him.

Another factor that helped bring Armstrong down was the simple fact he is a jerk. While he literally has millions of fans on Twitter, his real life is filled with broken friendships and angry ex-teammates. He sent texts to Levi Leipheimer’s wife Odessa saying, “Run, don’t walk.” When it came down to testifying in front of a grand jury, no one was going to take a bullet for the now disgraced racer.

And if all the affidavits are to be believed Armstrong’s hubris was massive. He talked openly about doping, feeling he was above being caught. And if you read some of the riders' reports, Armstrong allegedly had the UCI in his back pocket. So yeah, for a while he was perhaps above the law.

Just these few small inconsequential incidents were the catalysts for bringing brought down the Armstrong empire. LeoGrande not bothering to clean out the fridge when he moved out and Landis not getting the equipment he thought he deserved to ride, which lead to him harboring feelings of betrayal.

After reading an article about LeoGrande I wonder if there was a small part of him that wanted to get caught. Leaving behind doping products, as well as taking pictures of them, seems self-destructive or crazy confident that he wouldn’t get nabbed. I have a feeling it’s the latter, not the former.

What’s Armstrong’s next move? He’s backed himself into a corner by testifying in front of a lawyer at the SCA Promotions case. He swore that he didn’t dope. If he now admits to doping that is perjury and possible prison time. Prison is no place for a 140 pound guy who shaves his legs.

For those who may not remember – SCA Promotions is an insurance company that had a policy on Armstrong. When Armstrong won his sixth Tour de France he was due to be paid a bonus of five million dollars. Now with the records wiped clean of his victories, SCA wants their five million plus an additional two point five million for legal fees and interest. Also the ASO, the organizers of the Tour de France, want their prize winnings back. Let’s not forget all of his personal sponsors kicked him to the curb. Finally, the London’s Sunday Times lost a slander lawsuit against Armstrong for a million dollars and they’re considering taking legal action to get their money back. Overall I’ve read reports which estimate Armstrong will lose up to 30 million dollars.

And of course there’s the federal whistle blower lawsuit that Landis may or may not be leveling at the Texan. That suit could be worth millions for Landis.

Sloppy doping and crappy equipment were the sparks that became the raging fire that burned the Lance Armstrong legacy down to the foundation. I think that LeoGrande’s lackadaisical attitude toward doping wasn’t enough to bring down Armstrong. It was Landis and his no-holds-barred style of attacking Armstrong and everyone associated with him that was the final ignition. And this may not have happened if Floyd had been given a nicer Trek.

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now can we cut Floyd a little slack? not just a crap stirrer anymore.