So where were you, exactly, on Monday, May 12, 2003? Oh, and prove it, please. I ask only because that happened to be my birthday. And while I’m certain it was enjoyable, I can’t remember what I did or where I went, and I certainly couldn’t prove I did or didn’t do something that day. Seven years is a long time ago.
But not in the hallowed pages of Sports Illustrated.
In the May 31 issue, a story entitled “Big Trouble” provides a platform for bicycle racer Floyd Landis to air his grievances against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. “In a series of e-mails to cycling officials and sponsors,” write Austin Murphy and Selena Roberts, Landis accused 17 riders, including Armstrong, “of doping or complicity in doping. Landis offered no documentation, though he says he kept journals that back up his claims.”
The authors seem eager to give Landis credibility. “For most of his career Armstrong has had to fend off allegations that he was not a clean champion. Nothing really stuck. This time could be different,” they write.
That seems unlikely.
Landis told the magazine “that in early 2003 he was assigned by Armstrong to babysit bags of blood from Armstrong, Landis and [George] Hincapie for future transfusion.” He also claims “he ‘personally witnessed’ Armstrong, Hincapie and another U.S. Postal team rider, José Luis (Chechu) Rubiera, receiving performance-boosting blood transfusions during the Tour de France.”
Oh, and Landis “also described an afternoon in 2004 when the USPS team bus ‘stopped on a remote mountain road for an hour or so,’ ostensibly with engine trouble, ‘so the entire team could have half a liter of blood added.’”
Note the years of these alleged incidents: 2003, 2003 and 2004. Landis has, intentionally or not, made allegations that would be almost impossible to disprove. There’s no way Armstrong can go back and produce blood or urine samples from 2003 and 2004. And Landis admits he doesn’t have any tangible proof, either. So the entire case is going to be “he said, he said.”
Here’s what we know: Armstrong was tested, repeatedly, during those years. And he never failed a test. That doesn’t prove he wasn’t cheating, of course. Maybe he was cheating and he was just exceptionally careful not to be caught.
But the Armstrong described by Landis was anything but careful.