- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2006

The French possibly are elated with the prospect of a dirty American.

Unfortunately for them, it isn’t Lance Armstrong, their seven-year obsession.

A test showed elevated levels of testosterone in Floyd Landis, the Tour de France winner who walks with a limp because of an arthritic hip.

Landis has been dispatched to cycling’s purgatory until the results of the “B” sample analysis show he either is an unnaturally virile male or just another pharmacist in racing garb.

Cycling, of course, is the sport of those in white lab coats. News of another cheater in cycling is almost not news, considering all the dopers who have sullied the image of the sport.

The cyclists are considered guilty until proven innocent by testing, and even then, no one is convinced of their purity, as Armstrong would attest.

The Phonak team said Landis will attempt “to prove either that this result is coming from a natural process or that this is resulting from a mistake.”

The mistake would be in getting caught by the juice police.

If the backup sample is as incriminating as the first — and that is the expectation — the Swiss-based team will have no choice but to fire the 30-year-old lapsed Mennonite from Farmersville, Pa.

His test was taken after his stirring performance in stage 17 of the Tour de France, which merely confirms anew that seeing is not always believing in the modern sports culture.

Landis capitalized on the retirement of Armstrong and yet another doping probe that resulted in the ouster of Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, the pre-race favorites.

The International Cycling Union is convinced of its findings against Landis.

“We are confident of the first [test],” a UCI spokesman said. “For us, the first one already is good.”

It was good enough to prompt Landis to joke that his “immediate reaction was to look for the alcohol bottle.”

His mother wonders if he was taking medication to relieve the pain in his hip, which possibly produced a false positive.

Science is not usually the domain of mothers living in the Dutch country of Pennsylvania.

Hers is a mother’s right to reserve judgment, harsh as it might be.

Her love of a son is second to the iron principles of her faith.

“If it’s something worse than that, then he doesn’t deserve to win,” Arlene Landis said.

All that is left is the result of the backup sample and a Hollywood screenwriter’s first draft of a Mennonite gone wild.

Landis grew up without a television and a radio and eschewed the larger culture around him. His obsession with cycling eventually led to his break from the Mennonite community, no small act on his part. His uplifting comeback from the dead prompted a kind of torn elation in the Mennonite community.

Organizers of the Tour de France put the best possible spin on the worst possible outcome.

“No matter how harrowing this news is for cycling, it nevertheless illustrates that the fight [against doping] by the Tour de France together with the teams and sponsors is gaining ground in an irreversible way,” the organizers said in a statement.

A juiced-up winner illustrates all that?

Pardon those who think it illustrates the hopelessly corrupt nature of the sport, best viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Landis claimed to be part of the doping solution instead of being part of the problem after making the ceremonial ride over the Champs-Elysees last Sunday.

“In this sport, we proved that more than any sport we try to prevent doping and try to solve the problem,” he said.

It did not take long for those words to be in question.

Landis added the following prophetic view: “Cycling has a reputation that doesn’t seem to want to go away.”

Four days after completing his hard-earned victory that drew wide praise, Landis has come to be the face of a sport that remains entrenched in the wonders of modern medicine.

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