- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Until Thursday, it was hard to see any connection between Floyd Landis and Tonya Harding. One rides a bike, the other used to ride skates. One was raised a Mennonite, the other raised Cain. Not much overlap there.

But then Greg LeMond took the stand in the Landis doping case, and, suddenly, Floyd and Tonya were as entwined as two ice dancers. Seriously, how is the kneecapping of Nancy Kerrigan — carried out by Harding’s Four Stooges — much different from the comically desperate attempt by Landis’ business manager, Will Geoghegan, to discourage LeMond’s testimony?

What happened last week in Malibu, Calif., almost never happens in real life. Real-life courtrooms, sad to say, have few surprises, lawyers being averse to asking questions they don’t already know the answers to. Only in the movies, it seems, are there bombshells like the one LeMond dropped (e.g. the attorney in “Liar, Liar,” played by Jim Carrey, proving his client was fibbing about her age … and thus couldn’t be held to a prenuptial agreement because she had married as a minor).

Oh, to have been in the hearing room when LeMond told of an anonymous call he’d received the night before from Geoghegan, who identified himself only as Greg’s “uncle.” Oh, to have watched Geoghegan’s neck redden as LeMond detailed their conversation — specifically the former’s implied threat to reveal Greg’s deepest, darkest secret: He had been sexually abused as a child.

Unfortunately for Geoghegan, his phone number was traceable — and LeMond dramatically displayed it on his BlackBerry to the three arbitrators deciding the case for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. So it was that a member of Team Landis joined the ranks of Jeff Gillooly, Shawn Eckardt, Shane Stant and Derrick Smith, Harding’s henchmen. Not a great moment for Floyd, who, since flunking his drug test after winning last year’s Tour de France, has tried to portray himself as the victim of a Vast French Conspiracy.

Like Tonya, Landis claims he had nothing to do with his underling’s actions. It’s well known, though, that he and Geoghegan are former teammates and longtime buddies. It’s also known that he was in the same room as Geoghegan — at the other end of a conference table of indeterminate length — when the call was placed. It’s further known that, upon learning of the call, Landis didn’t immediately fire him. (That was done by one of his lawyers after LeMond’s jaw-dropping testimony.)

A reasonable person might conclude that Landis didn’t instantly dump Geoghegan — and didn’t tell his attorneys about the call — because he lacks a strong sense of ethics. A reasonable person might conclude that Landis is the type of guy who would do anything to win (such as pump himself full of testosterone to win a bike race). A reasonable person might conclude that in crisis situations (falling eight minutes behind late in the Tour, facing potentially damaging testimony from LeMond), Landis has displayed a disturbing pattern of behavior.

Perfectly reasonable conclusions like these do much harm to Landis’ cause. Some will say LeMond is protective of his legacy as America’s first Tour champion and feels threatened by Floyd and Lance Armstrong — thus his strained relations with them — but that didn’t stop him from baring his soul to Landis in August and telling him of his sexual abuse. The point he was trying to make to Floyd was: Keeping terrible secrets can be painful. If you used performance-enhancing drugs, come clean. You’ll be better off, and the sport will be better off.

Yesterday, the theatrics continued. Geoghegan, it was announced, is going into rehab “in an effort to address his problems.” It was the drugs or drink, in other words, that made him do it. Heck, Tonya’s crew probably wishes they’d thought of that one.

Where Landis goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it’s not looking good. Maybe, if his career and reputation continue to fall apart, he’ll follow Harding’s path, turn to boxing to make ends meet. Tonya once traded haymakers with Paula Jones, one of Bill Clinton’s femmes fatales; perhaps Floyd will climb in the ring with Donald Rumsfeld or Paul Wolfowitz.

If he’s smart, he’ll do what the young Ali did — get on his bicycle and stay on his bicycle.

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