That headline could refer to any number of things here in the Southland, but for today, it pertains to Floyd Landis, the Tour de France champion -- at least for the present -- who returned to his home in SoCal this week. Since he's one of our own, his much chronicled dilemma merits a brief comment.

The situation is this: Landis won this year's Tour de France with a miraculous comeback. Soon after his victory, he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. Translation: He may have cheated. The punishment: Landis would a) forfeit his Tour title and b) be suspended from racing for two years.

Landis claims innocence, contending that his body simply creates more testosterone than the average bear's. This argument might hold some water if not for these facts:

1. His alleged substance abuse came, coincidentally, right after his best stage of the tour.
2. His first tested sample purportedly contains synthetic testosterone, which, being synthetic, would have to have come from someplace outside of his body. To date, Landis has not produced an explanation for this.

I get no pleasure in watching athletes fail or be shamed, particularly when they've got a story like Landis's. He's the son of Mennonites, a hard-working rider who's spent most of his career in the shadow of heralded cyclists like Lance Armstrong. All of that said, the case against him seems fairly compelling. As the NY Times reported today:

“It’s powerful evidence that’s pretty definitive,” said David Cowan, a professor at King’s College London and the director of the Drug Control Center in London, which is accredited by WADA. “That in itself is enough to pursue a case.”

There are other factors as well. Landis has a hip condition, and is scheduled for an upcoming surgery that might ultimately leave him unable to continue his cycling career. In addition, he was all but out of the Tour only days before Stage 17, the epic turn of the race that catapulted him back into contention. Point being: This might have been Landis's one and only legimitate shot at winning the Tour de France. If he got caught cheating -- well, given the stakes, perhaps it was worth the risk.

All of that said, the results of a second sample still have to be revealed, and if those fail to confirm the findings of the first, this will all have been a tempest in a demitasse.

August 2, 2006 9:42 AM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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