Landis. Why I love the tortured whacko.

Landis. Love the man, hate the blindspots.

When I was young and impressionable, gonzo writer Hunter Thompson was one of my favorite authors. He wrote drunk, stoned, whacked on acid but usually with brilliance. I’m having a Thompson moment.

I love Floyd Landis and I still do in light of his drug admissions and revelations. His story is such profound Hollywood that I could never help but fall under the spell from the first moments.

An escaped mennonite farmboy who didn’t want to bail hay for the rest of his life, he just wanted to ride his bike fast. The throw-back iconoclast who questioned everything and had his unique take on how the world worked. The odd-ball funny man with a quick wit always ready to deliver the unexpected. I’m a sucker for these things.

He was a one-in-a-million bombshell that went off in the uptight, tradition bound world of cycling. Not just a breathe of fresh air, a whole new bottle of oxygen. He was a savior, a fresh page, a wild hair, a freak flag, he was a bike rider with the silly name Floyd and he did things his way hell or high water.

I loved him like I love a movie with a novel premise and blindside brilliant ending. Floyd was never dull, played his music loud, told his own bizarre truth and beat the crap out of the other lycra poseurs. How can you not love the man? He had a silly pointy beard, a sclerotic hip and an addiction to riding hard.

I screamed and ranted with nationalist pride when Armstrong won his seven tours. I screamed with pride that such a uniquely American freak had continued the tradition. Drugs or not, I will count Landis’ stage 17 comeback ride in the Tour de France as one of the most inspiring athletic achievements I’ll ever see until I die. I will carry the goose-bumps to my grave.

So I hold Floyd Landis in high esteem despite his momental stupidly, his extraordinary blind spots, his clueless and pointless and angry pursuit of false justice. Yes, he is flawed and not surprisingly, so are we. We all tell lies that become complicated despite our best efforts to compartmentalize them with a weak rationale.

I will always view him as a uniquely flawed American character. But I will never side with anyone against Floyd despite his relentless, misguided failure to fool the world. Like Lance Armstrong, his view of life is black and white with zero grey. The difference is that Lance knows the rest of the world sees gray and therefore needs an explanation. Armstrong wakes up each morning thinking about grey control

I am glad for cycling that Landis came clean, overjoyed that his conscience can now find some piece and hopeful that from this point on his anger will not drive his entire view of life. Angry Mennonites are not a happy group. You either drive a whip and buggy or a Chevy Truck, no in between. Grey again.

Floyd is a man with profound, obvious character flaws and predictable angers. Setting aside the questions of his facts, figures and motivations, it will be easy to paint Floyd as a loose cannon, an angry, vindictive man — and nothing, once you get past the surface, could be farther from the truth.

I’m guessing with all my heart and intuition that Floyd is an open book with a protective cover. He can’t help himself — eventually the truth will come out. And all the money and Livestrong lawyers in the world will not shut him up once he decides to speak the truth.

Floyd is a man of absolute principle and the fact that he’s had to disobey those principles for many years makes him a very extreme man to have in the confessional booth. Intimidation and the possibility of financial ruin do not phase him — he’s already been through several Hells and there’s nothing left to scare him with.

Many people will question his motives, timing and sanity but I don’t. This is a man of principle, sometimes warped, that wants to wipe the slate clean. It would be wise to question any argument calling him crazy.

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49 Responses to “Landis. Why I love the tortured whacko.”

  1. Thanks. Great down to earth write up.

  2. "Principles", huh. Your definition of principle is nowhere in the dictionary. I looked it up. See below:

    an accepted or professed rule of action or conduct: a person of good moral principles.


    a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived: the principles of modern physics.


    a fundamental doctrine or tenet; a distinctive ruling opinion: the principles of the Stoics.


    principles, a personal or specific basis of conduct or management: to adhere to one's principles; a kindergarten run on modern principles.


    guiding sense of the requirements and obligations of right conduct: a person of principle.

    None of the above fit Landis. What does fit him seems to be words like "Liar, Bitter, Extortion, borderline nutso or Psychotic, but man of principle is a stretch of the imagination. Did not figure you for a Landis apologist. I had my doubts but with all the things that happened in the last 4 years, He is more like a man using a flamethrower, bent on revenge at any cost. Again the opposite of principle.

    • Ray, just let me ask you a question: setting Landis aside, do you believe that Armstrong doped or not? Landis is all those things you mention but I firmly believe he's telling the truth now and would simply like to cleam his conscience. If you answer yes on the Lance question then we don't really have an issue. If you answer no, then I suspect you have a blindspot.

  3. I hope Floyd Landis has a way to prove his allegations. Otherwise, it would be another unwise move from his part.

  4. "…a man of absolute principle…" You must be a young man or very naive because in my six plus decades I've learned sadly that a liar is just a liar. They get caught at some misdeed and try to convince the public that what they did was not what it seemed. Landis got caught cheating at the Tour. He wasted both his AND others (well meaning dupes) money on a failed defense stating over and over that he basically didn't dope. Now after 4 years and millions of dollars, he says O.K. I did it but also so did others. He's trying to deflect the spotlight of public opinion by jacking Lance etc. around. Before this, I consideredn him in the same category as Basso, Vino, and Millar. A doper but having paid his sentence dues. I don't know if Lance was a doper or not but Landis' method disgusts me. Bottom line for me, Landis is a scumbag not a hero. You should be more careful who you love because bad guys can actually be bad.

    • Lee, I'm not young (52) and only mildly naive. I'm guessing by your response that you believe Lance to be innocent and clean. In which case, I would have to question your naivete. In any case, I appreaciate your reading and taking the time to write. It's an ugly situation and Landis is covered with warts but I believe he's come clean. I am a huge supporter of Lance and respect his many talents and Livestrong foundation work but to think that he is the only top rider in the sport who didn't dope is quite a stretch.

  5. I am with you Lee. The Landis story is newsworthy only because he cheated on the biggest stage there is. How greedy and stupid could you be? I think the less airtime cheats get the better. Let them disappear in silence and live a life of mediocrity.

  6. Cool, Walshworld-you actually read these. I really like your blog and please bring back Cav. He's got stones and a big mouth (although he's been low key lately). Always entertaining!

    Now-Did Lance dope? Don't know but could have. BUT that era in cycling is why the bio passport, the all-acronym anti-drug organizations and constant testing came into being. They continue to catch the current crop of rider who think they can get away with doping and make it a cleaner sport. I am against doping. I am also against a lying , defrauding, a****le getting any cred. when they have done so much to deserve jail not an electronic/journalistic forum. If Landis goes under oath to say he doped, hopefully he'll be sent to jail (also for scamming people who sent him money!). The doping drags me down; the clean riding lifts me up. I had hoped that 24/7 stories about that were all behind us. Why bring it back over and over again. Even Merckx got hammeered for doping and nobody brings him up. Put the anti-doping systems in place and lets move on. I'm DVRing both the Giro and the ToC and watch them after I get back from my "hot" ride on my hybrid. AND yes-if Lance can make a come-back, I can get up off the couch and ride. Thanks for reading.

  7. I think I get what you're saying. You like Floyd for his character, his "panache". From a doping perspective you don't see him as any different from the rest of the peloton, Lance included. To each their own.

    The question nobody is asking though, relates to your beloved "stage 17". He admits to blood-doping and says everybody in the peloton & their soigneur are doing it, but what about stage 17? It wasn't blood-doping – it was high testosterone that Landis tested positive for and that, I think, made stage 17 such a falsely courageous win for Landis. Somebody needs to ask this question to Mr. Landis.

  8. This post was like watching Hunter S. Thompson ashes being shot out of a canon. Great read

  9. I love your articles, and I love cycling. Now I love the controversy of cycling! People say they want cycling to get back to being clean. When was it ever clean? From the day men started racing bikes they began eating, drinking or injecting something to make them stronger.

    I will always be impressed with Armstrong, what he did was amazing. Just to survive as many Tours de France as he did is incredible, to win them (even doped) is a miracle of luck and determination. Personally, I believe anyone who has won the Tour in the past had been doped one way or the other. In Armstrong’s case he just got lucky he got out of the winning game when he did before an EPO test came about. And now all his “B” samples are sitting it a french refrigerator getting moldy like week-old brie but cant be tested because two samples are required. I once heard Lance never had a flat tire in all his tours. With tires and tests, the guy was just damn lucky.

    But I wonder how many people it will take from Lance’s past to come forward with doping allegations before his luster will tarnish? All these people cant be liars but we keep wanting to believe Lance. I believe Landis got angry because all the riders around him were doping but he got caught. Understandably, he’s jealous of the fame and fortune Lance ended up with and decided to break the pro cyclists’ code and spill the beans. His upbringing eventually made him tell the truth, but its too late for him to have any credibility.

    Basso and Vino endured their punishments and are now back in the fight. I’m afraid Landis will never get out of his purgatory. His he just unlucky, or just stupid?

    • Ron, you just read my mind and then took all the words I was gonna say right out of my mouth. Agree 110% with everything. Landis was unlucky and his willfull anger made things far worse. I'll always miss his huge and wasted talents.

  10. Walshworld, so that means I can blame the typo in the last sentence on you!

  11. Doping in pro cycling has been going on for over 120 years. What or whom has the power to stop it? I say it can’t be done! Just go Gonzo and have fun.

  12. I like Johhny’s approach. UCI is to blame, USAC is to blame, and those who took banned substances knowingly are to blame. I do think many people are trying to take steps in the right direction.
    If one spouse cheats on another is the cheater solely to blame? What responsibility does the cheated have in the situation.
    I would be curious to see someones response on this.
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  13. Great site, Matt!

    For all the haters, everyone MUST read this interview with Andy Rihs from 2006. If this doesn't substantiate Floyd's claims about team management condoning doping, I don't know what does.

  14. I too like Floyd and i actually think Floyd told the truth about Testosterone. He said he didn't use it. He never said he hadn't doped. Makes his 2007 appeal especially difficult. What do you think he told his lawyers and experts? "I doped, but not with what they're accusing me of, so get it dismissed so I can keep this yellow jersey."

  15. "This is a man of principle, sometimes warped, that wants to wipe the slate clean."

    His principles are sometimes warped? Don't you mean "just plain warped"? When has he publicly exhibited principles that would be commonly considered righteous?

    This guy is not trying to clean the slate. He was a hair away from Lance-level celebrity. That went up in smoke. The only asset he has left is also his biggest liability – his past. He's only "coming clean" now to increase the value of that asset. His riding with Lance is worthless to him now if he did it clean, but if he did it dirty – cha ching.

    Whether one believes the allegations or not is immaterial to this discussion. Your article is about Floyd, not Lance, and I just don't see Floyd as a romantic or noble figure.

  16. Nice write-up, Matt.

  17. Hey Matt – I really like your style. Your writing, your admiration for HST, and your frequent replies to us repliers.

    Maybe when the dust settles Floyd will get credit for ripping open a festering wound in cycling and starting a healing process, maybe not.

    But you are spot-on in your black-grey-white analogy – you can hate FL for saying he was clean when racing, or you can hate FL for ‘coming clean’ now – but you cannot do both.

  18. I love Floyd too! He's fascinating and he's good and I hope to cheer for him as a pro cyclist again someday!

    • Carson, one of my fondest wishes is to see Floyd racing again with the brilliance and joy that he once had. I hope his admissions have lightened his load and make him fast again. Matt

      • You got it – I want Floyd to find the joy that allowed him to rise to the top of cycling because he loved to ride his bike. Now that he is free of the baggage I hope his internal happiness returns. I want the Floyd Landis story to end happier than Marco Pantani's did.

      • James, somehow, some way, I'd love to see FLoyd back. How abouthim winning the Tour of California next year? That would be sweet.

  19. Its about time somebody wrote this article. I was delighted to see a fellow, unashamed Floyd fan come to his defense. No, I am not endorsing doping but this author made the point that this is not a perfect hero but a classic American story come to life and that includes the flaws. I also will regard stage 17 of the 2006 Tour as one of the greatest sporting acts ever. There is no drug you can take that gives you the courage to drop the entire peloton on a stage with five big climbs. Long live Floyd Landis

  20. He lied. He doped. So what. Landis is one of the funniest jokers in the peleton. He spilled the beans on LeMond's sexual abuse and now they are buddies going after Lance. They share lawyers. You can't write comedy like that. Slander is the cyclist's stealth weapon. You never know when it will come out but you know it will hurt. You ever see 2 cyclists fist fighting. Super pathetic.

  21. You know u might be right! I saw Landis in the Tour of Georgia once and he has HUGE feet! They look like clown feet!! You dont get funnier than that!

  22. What Armstrong achieved is nothing short of incredible, unbelievable and inspirational. He was simply the best in the world for so long and he deserves his physical accomplishments. But to suggest he did it drug free could only be made by someone who has not been deeply involved in training for the sport (or any other sport for that matter). What bugs me about Armstrong is his completed denial of ever taking PEDs and his moral high ground, bullshit, purist attitude. And because of this moralist high ground attitude, I say burn the mf and expose him for what he truly is – someone who used PEDs to elevate his physical condition. He has made an American fortune ( I recall he was listed on some richest athlete site as having net worth of 125 million USD), on his “story” of cancer victim, turned world beater and the casual uninformed American has bought into – a reputation based on a lie. Feels me with joy that Nowitsky has cast a big net and looks like the walls are finally closing in on him.

    • I tend to agree with your main point. I really don’t have a problem with the doping because that was the culture at the time and everyone on the podium of any grand tour was most likely doping. You could easily argue ti was a level playing field. So like you, my only issue is the manner of the denial — ruthless and aggressive. That’s the trouble with a big lie — you just have to tell bigger and bigger lies to keep it going. (Ask Landis about that one.) It will be fascinating to see how Armstrong and his team will spin this story out.

  23. Floyd. A true cycling hero. Thanks for stage 17. And now finally thanks for telling the truth. Now stay with the truth on the path for good and don't fall back. Nobody knows what it means to do what you did by telling finally the sad truth. Just read today the full transcript of the Kimmage interview. Respect, Floyd!

  24. Wonderful post!! I love Floyd too, and it confuses people…too bad, my feeling will never change!!!
    Thank you for writing this!!!

  25. jeff poe stinker Reply 25. May, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    "Armstrong wakes up each morning thinking about grey control" That is a great blog post. Where is Floyd now? I should look that up on the google….

    I think F.L. can come out and play again soon. He must be so happy now that Tyler and George have spilled the beans. This is all gonna be a movie one day, we all know.

    • Most definitely a movie and I'd like a walk-on role and a federal investigator, just in the background, putting some evidence in a plastic bag. AS for FLoyd his career is dead and never coming back. Wish that wasn't the case but sadly I believe so. Matt

  26. Thank you for the read – thank goodness some people out there see the story for what it is. He will eventually go down in sports history as a great rider and a great person, courageous and tragic. Absolutely no better ride than Morzine, awesome.

  27. I supported Landis, until he was found guilty in the hearing. He really needs to shut up and go away. His friends and co litigents are a waste of oxygen.

  28. Just found this Blog, and I love it ! As someone who took up riding a couple of years ago, I’m really into it and love reading about it. Was just getting a bit tired of the usual gear-head talk and, or pro rider hero worship, and appreciate your more holistic and humanistic approach, not to mention hilarious. After all, we’re all is this together, and it can only make is easier and more pleasant if we all can see that. Pro riders are regular people at heart, just far more in the public eye, and far more committed to cycling, and must experience everything we all do on a bike. At far greater speeds, of course….. Cheers Mate

  29. When I was younger and talked to someone mentally inferior, I looked into their empty eyes and wondered if they realize how stupid they are. Or maybe the fact that other people are smarter is simply beyond their perception? Well, Landis proved this right, by trying to follow in Lances footsteps and failing painfully. He thought people won’t tell the difference, just like he didn’t. 
    BTW: Charges against Lance are dropped, which makes me very happy 🙂

    • It ain’t over till the US Doping agency says it’s over. Lance isn’t celebrating yet and even he is getting weary according to Men’s Journal. I don’t think Landis every had much in common with Lance as far as personality — what they shared was talent and drive. The difference was Landis got caught — we can’t yet say if the same thing will happen to Lance. I respect the man tremendously but I don’t think there’s any question he doped. Thanks for writing in, Matt

  30. Great soap opera a twisted affair, could be bigger than kims backside