Farewell, Floyd

21 09 2007

When you look at his face, into his eyes, you can see the yellow jersey recede and dive back through the Arc de Triomphe. Now you can see it floating over the second-place winner. You see Floyd Landis’ face, and you understand that steroids have not only rendered a victory useless: They have effectively erased a year of one of the world’s finest and most prestigious sporting events. No one gets the first-place medal. It’s just a wash, an impossibly quick cycle through the country of France conducted by men who’ve trained their whole lives for it.

Yesterday, thirteen months after the tests were taken after his 2006 Tour de France victory, Floyd Landis’ positive results were upheld in court. Landis, who tested positive for Casanova-high levels of testosterone in his blood after the race, had been engaged in judiciary precedings after that, claiming his innocence in his petulant, childish way the whole time.

His reaction, the refusal to acknowledge a crime that overwhelming evidence (enough to hit unreasonable-doubt territory) proves he committed. It’s a kid with his hand in the cookie jar saying that his sister’s the one who’s been stealing them.

Nobody’s surprised that the winner of the Tour took steroids. They’ve haunted Lance ever since his first win. Further, nobody’s really surprised that Landis took steroids, given that he surged from a middle-of-the-packer the whole way to first in one Lance-ian thrust. The two other explanations would be your everyday superhuman adrenaline. The other is, of course, the collision of rays from Krypton’s sun and the terrestrial Sun.

But what Landis doesn’t quite grasp is, well, science. The human body is capable of only so much. And now, certainly, some feats once considered walls for human physiology — the four-minute mile, for instance — have been revised. Walls are broken. ‘Extremes’ push outward. Anomalies, good and bad, exist.

For Landis, his fateful Stage 17, when he nearly erased an eight-minute lead from Oscar Pereiro with, seems (beyond, again, a reasonable doubt) to have come from more earthly, more synthetic substances than Krypton rays. The urine sample he supplied after the race showed, allegedly, an 11-to-1 ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone.

Now, that doesn’t mean a lot until you realize that the maximum allowable ratio, and thus pretty close to the natural peak, is 4-to-1. The human body can only produce so much.

What Landis is still doing right now is clinging to that unreasonable doubt, claiming that something was amiss in the testing. Perhaps it was. And maybe one day he’ll be exonerated. Wrongful convictions, do, indeed happen.

Well, they did happen before we had the technology to prevent them and to make doubt pretty damn unreasonable.

Now is time for Landis to apologize, to say ‘you got me.’ Until that happens, not just with Landis, until our athletes stop dodging these convictions — until they stop denying with their hands in the cookie jar — this will continue.

And more seasons will be erased.

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