- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

So the backup sample has produced a positive result and those invested in the purity of Floyd Landis have allowed the moment to pass without issuing yet another lame explanation.

That undoubtedly is wise because the exercise in obfuscation was descending into parody.

His team was liable to trot out a theory involving a mosquito packing copious amounts of synthetic testosterone, which was transferred to Landis after the mosquito was allowed to feast on one of his body parts.

Landis has been fired from his cycling team, and officials with the Tour de France no longer consider Landis to be the champion of their race.

Landis has nowhere to go with this, although he is vowing to challenge the science “with the same determination and intensity that I bring to my training and racing.”

That is his prerogative, of course, but Landis already has lost the battle in the court of public opinion.

You only had to read the comments of Greg LeMond to know which way the wind is blowing in the cycling community.

“When I heard it was synthetic hormone, it is almost impossible to be caused by natural events,” the three-time winner of the Tour de France said. “It’s kind of a downer. I feel for Floyd’s family. I hope Floyd will come clean on it and help the sport. We need to figure out how to clean the sport up, and we need the help of Floyd.”

It is doubtful Landis ever will heed LeMond’s appeal.

That is not how it usually works with those who try to beat the system.

Barry Bonds is not liable to ever have an urge to set the record straight unless Hall of Fame voters come to treat him like a pariah and his chances of admission dwindle with each passing year.

It was this circumstance that finally prompted Pete Rose to concede he was a serial liar.

We are all too familiar with the drill of denial.

A tape could surface showing Landis ingesting a foreign substance, and he undoubtedly would insist the person on the tape was not him but an evil look-alike.

Americans are inclined to give athletes the benefit of the doubt, and athletes play on that doubt all the time.

We invest our emotions in their exploits and dislike thinking we were dupes.

The against-all-odds comeback of Landis in stage 17 of the Tour de France was one for the ages, if not too good to be true.

As it turns out, two tests show it was too good to be true.

Landis plans to take legal measures to fight the result, as if a legal victory somehow would clear his name.

It won’t. We all have come to learn the limitations of the legal system, where common sense is often checked at the courtroom doors.

No, Landis is tarnished goods now, barring a one-in-a-zillion development.

The cycling community certainly has no reason to want to undermine what was the riveting saga of Landis. Even the French embraced his fortitude and modesty. He was perceived to be unlike many Americans, no doubt because of his upbringing as a Mennonite in Pennsylvania.

Cycling exists on the periphery of the major sports in this nation, coming out of the shadows with the Tour de France each summer. Even then, our interest in the event is driven more by the personality of a competitor than by the sport, as it was for so many years with Lance Armstrong.

Landis was cloaked in anonymity outside the cycling community until he fashioned the performance of his life in the Tour de France.

Winning the Tour de France is a quantum jump to an American cyclist.

The pressure to succeed is immense, especially for a 30-year-old cyclist with an arthritic hip. How many more championship opportunities would his body allow him?

That question possibly was on his mind after his nearly disastrous struggles in stage 16.

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