Good Grief

Good Grief

So Lance Armstrong has settled Floyd Landis’ whistleblower lawsuit. Armstrong will pay the federal government $5 million dollars. Landis will receive $1M of that and Armstrong will pay $1.65M in legal fees … for Landis.

It’s a mixed result, at best. We won’t suffer through any more eye-glazing court filings from Armstrong’s legal team claiming that the suit has zero merit, lacks jurisdiction or that little green men were responsible for his doping. So the occasional updates of some other outrageous defense strategy meant to delay or derail the prosecution won’t clutter your social media feeds anymore. That part, given that I routinely read such stories with clenched teeth, is a win.

I have to admit the Robin Hoodian redistribution of wealth from Armstrong to Landis is almost as satisfying as a hot Epsom salt bath. While Armstrong will keep the majority of his wealth, that any of it will go to Landis will absolutely burn Tex up. I have to imagine that even with Floyd’s of Leadville giving Landis a fresh career, some of that windfall will get eaten up with old debts, which only makes me wish the amount was bigger.

What irks me about this is that what would have easily been the most interesting story in cycling this year won’t happen. Seeing Armstrong testifying on the witness stand would have been more thrilling than Steven Spielberg’s last three films—combined. I have wanted that for cycling the way I want clean air and water for my kids.

But let’s be honest: Armstrong would have told the truth about everything we already know but would have perjured himself about all the events that we still are trying to parse, and in that, he would have given us a result even less satisfying than this.

There will come a day when we look back on Armstrong’s racing, his relentless pursuit of fitness, his need to crush his opponents, his meticulous preparation, his constant evasion of the truth even after caught, with something approaching nostalgia. This, however, is not that day.

 


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46 comments

  1. cycloscott

    Curious… Why does Floyd get a pass and admiration? He doped, lied about doping, and stole from folks for his “Floyd Defense” fund. I get that he always seemed “cooler” than Lance, but he’s still a lying doper who used the whistleblower laws to line his own pockets. For a fraud that he WILLINGLY participated in.

    1. Shawn

      I understand the sentiment, but the answer is: Floyd was not a hypocrit bully.

      You can get away with a lot if you’re not an a–hole.

    2. Mark Studnicki

      Floyd gets no free pass. He doped just like the rest of the team, lied about it, finally confessed. He was smart enough at least to initiate the Whisle Blower case the the USG ultimately joined, so good move on his part. Im sure his dope selling business will get a huge influx of that cash. Dave Z is probably pretty stoked as well since they are in the dope selling biz together now.


    3. Author
      Padraig

      I need to push back against your assertion that Landis and Zabriskie are in the dope-selling business. As someone who has dealt with nerve pain and has chosen to forego ineffective opiates, I can attest to the effectiveness of CBD, the compound that comes from cannabis that is used in the products that Floyd’s of Leadville produces, as a means to deal with nerve pain. The science behind this is solid. What they are peddling isn’t just some high for stoners, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  2. Andrew

    I think because Floyd seemed really f**ked up, and we take/took pity on him. And because he wasn’t a total jerk to everyone else. Kind of why Tyler, Millar, et al are more sympathetic figures. And why no one wants to “go there” with Indurain, etc.

    Having said that, I’m starting to lose interest in hating Lance. I guess I am enough of a forgiving person to hope that he will find some way to contribute to the world, raise decent children, enjoy the rest of his life.

  3. Brendan T. Burke

    I’m not sure why there’s so much hate for Armstrong? I mean what he did was wrong even in the context of the cheating and doping of the day because of the bullying, but its all partly counter-balanced by his cancer charity work and still current work with cancer patients. And he’s still trying to bring cycling back into the American consciousness with his podcast work. I know that you’re opposed to listening to it, Padraig, but its really an awesome and accessible project that he’s working on. I guess that I’ll always be a pro racing fan and I’ve forgiven him. I hope that others will be able to forgive him and themselves for having been deceived for so long.

    1. Kevin

      “I’ve forgiven him”

      Everything must be cool then. He’s making a cutesy podcast, so he must be a good guy.

      The guy destroyed multiple careers and has show ZERO remorse for doing so.

      He corrupted the sport at the highest levels by paying off UCI and WADA officials so that they would overlook his tests and look at his competition with more scrutiny.

      I couldn’t care less about his personal cheating. It’s his vindictiveness and willingness to destroy everyone around him to get to the top that is unforgivable and frankly it’s not up to you to forgive him. If he ever tries to make right with those he harmed than maybe I’ll give him a shot at redemption, but I very much doubt that will ever happen.

    2. Chris Streight

      I still despise him for what he did to Frankie & Betsy Andreu. What he did as an athlete is not worth despising him. What he did to other humans is worthy of being despised IMHO.

  4. ancker

    As Andrew said, I’ve lost interest in hating Lance as well. That said, Lance wasn’t why I got into cycling, so he was never on a pedestal or hero status for me.

    I understand the overwhelming distaste for Lance for all of the various and justifiable reasons, but what I don’t understand is the celebration of other dopers. Landis gets a pass but isn’t celebrated like Contador, Valverde, etc. Like somehow the failed test, but no admission resulting in a 2-year ban was enough to erase the offense. Lance doped but was never actually caught. Then he confessed, but somehow he’s hated more than others who _were_ caught but refuse to own up to it, and are still racing (and probably doping.)

    1. Scott M.

      It’s interesting to note that Valverde’s first win (out of five) at La Flèche Wallonne was in 2006, smack dab in the middle of the doping era.

  5. Girl

    It’s not Lance’s cheating. (We know they ALL did it. Maybe they all still do…) It’s the bullying, his attempts to destroy the careers of the whisleblowers, and his lack of repentance that put Lance on my shit-list. What a mean, narcissistic man.

    1. Andrew

      I think we all agree with this. The question is what exactly would you require in terms of repentance before beginning to forgive him?


    2. Author
      Padraig

      What I keep hearing from people and agree with is that he hasn’t made amends with the Andreus. If you won’t make amends with those closest to you, how can you be trusted. For my part, I don’t really care if he apologizes to Betsy, though he ought to. The person he really owes an apology to is Frankie. He deliberately derailed Frankie’s career three different times. The Andreus have three kids. Without atoning for that, he really hasn’t done much.

    3. Ancker

      Agreed, but I think it’s shortsighted to assume that others who are/were doping didn’t also do what they could to silence and/or destroy detractors. Lance had resources beyond what others had/have, but I bet a lot of soigneurs, mechanics, etc got canned for speaking up about shady practices in just about every other team.

      I can’t really speak to his repentance, no one really can, but I’ve listened to his podcast a handful of times. When the topic does come up, you can tell there’s a healthy balance of “why am I the only one being vilified?” and “Yeah, I made huge mistakes and wronged a lot of people”. Which I believe is a perfectly defensible position to be in.

      To answer Andrew, I don’t think he needs to do anything for forgiveness. Whatever he does will never be enough for some people and some are already there. Forgiveness is a very personal thing.

    4. Mark Studnicki

      Credible stories point to Tyler and Floyd’s positive tests as being tipped of by Lance. Its well documented that Lance had “influence” with the UCI and requested that they slow Tyler down with a warning. Its all good when you’re working for Lance, but once you are a rival and he knows what program you’re on, good luck.


    5. Author
      Padraig

      Yes, this has been reported by very credible journalists, and Lance had a template: when Cyrile Guimard dropped the dime on Festina prior to the ’98 Tour. That’s why Willy Voet was stopped.

  6. Fair weather Cyclist

    Forgive a sociopath, now there is a new thought to me. He doesn’t care, for sure, and never will care, his brain isn’t wired that way. For recompense, there are damages away from this lawsuit, Lemond, Betsy Andreu, is it Emma his masseuse, maybe half a dozen different riders whose careers ended too soon because of him. At least one journalist. The list of defamed and degraded is not short.
    And then there is the fact that this started as a criminal matter, Lance was looking at jail, pretty good case I thought, until some idiot derailed the grand jury information by making some of it public. Forgive? Really? What drugs do you take for that leap or are you just kinder than I?
    He is a hero to me, he made bicycling safer in the US, he made my life a lot better by popularizing bicycling. I am grateful. But just because he is a hero does not mean he is a saint, he has serious flaws and faults. Saints do not win grand tours. Oops, that is right he was DQed and didn’t win any grand tours.
    Some people are just vile and the veneer is very thin.
    Let us hope he just goes away.

  7. Ryan

    Well, now that that is over hopefully “cycling” can evolve into a less racing/competitive centered endeavor for those with the best non-ethical doctors.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I’m not sure your definition of love is the same as mine. That said, I think he’s a far more honest, decent and courageous person than Lance is.

  8. Winky

    1) Settlement seems light, but I’d imagine that USPS would have a very hard time actually demonstrating the net loss they claim to have incurred.
    2) Like some other commentators, I’ve kind-of lost interest in hating Lance. Way back, he was a stone-cold hero to me. I followed him out of his triathlon career into pro-cycling, through the cancer-thing and right through his TDF run. I’ve always been naive with respect to these things.I do feel betrayed, but I’m getting over it.
    3) I’m not super psyched on Floyd, to put it mildly. He cheated and lied just like many others. The “defense fund” was particularly egregious.

    1. Scott M.

      Agreement all around.

      As a layman, I suspect the real threats to the USPS’ business model are directly and primarily related to email, UPS, FedEx and now Amazon. Whether true or not, I believe the decline of the USPS has everything to do with direct competition from companies that do delivery better/faster and almost nothing to do with degradation of its brand through association with LA.

      As I understand it, this is the crux of the matter. Seems to me in that context, squeezing $5M was a win — not that it will make a bit if difference to USPS’ survival in 20 years. I don’t think $100M would either.

      I was a serious LA fanboy. Then a hater. Now ambivalent. But pinning the fall of the Postal Service empire on Lance. That one is a stretch, IMO.

  9. lkb3

    “That said, Lance wasn’t why I got into cycling,”
    Interestingly, Floyd Landis WAS why I got into mountain biking – I went to high school with him, and had been doing a lot of riding around the county on my hybrid Diamondback (Lancaster County was and still is a great place for road riding). Then one day Floyd invited me and another guy to go mountain biking with him that weekend, and was instantly hooked. That was 25 years ago, and I’m still a mountain biker.
    So in 2006, I believed Floyd when he said he was clean, and donated to his fund. And so was SUPER pissed when he confessed to his doping. It took me a long time to let go of that. Reading Tyler Hamilton’s book about the path he took to doping helped me see from a different point of view, and that’s what helped me let go of my anger & forgive Floyd for defrauding me. Now I hope the best for him, and hope Floyd’s of Leadville is successful. One of these days, I’d love to get to Leadville and have a beer with him…

    As for Lance, meh…

  10. Fausto

    Can’t believe they settled on $5m, they could have done that years ago. Has the government stated why a $100m case was settled for $5m? Figured on $20-$30, but $5? Won’t even cramp his style. Floyd after taxes will get not much which is fine by me. They can both go away forever now.

  11. Aar

    IMHO, the best thing for cycling is for Lance to go away and never be heard from again. This settlement potentially expedites the timeline but decreases the likelihood.

    I’m am long over having any emotion about him or that he exposed all competitive sports as fraudulent in my eyes. I just want our society/media to stop perpetuating negativity by covering the dregs. As a suggestion of what to cover instead, I enjoy the coverage of gran fondos and charity rides that I’m seeing these days (as long as they don’t carry names/brands of cheaters).

  12. Fuzz

    It’s too bad this case will not be played to completion. From a legal standpoint, it would have been interesting to see if one can collect damages when the result of a fraud was a net positive. Clearly the feds did not think they could win, or they would not have settled for so little. It overall feels like a big win for Armstrong. I wonder what his legal bills have been for this litigation.

  13. MCH

    LA is certainly no angel. But if we were really interested in justice, a lot more of the anti-doping vitriol would be directed at the “nice” dopers. Or better yet, it would be directed at those that ran the sport and created the environment where doping was allowed and encouraged. Personally, I see all of the riders, LA included, as victims of a corrupt system.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I agree with you in large part, but once I read “Wheelmen” and the reasoned decision, I came to appreciate that most riders simply tried to play within a corrupt system, whereas Lance really attempted to game the system to his advantage.

  14. Ed

    At a certain point all this Lance-hate reveals far more about the haters than the hardly unique misdeeds of a man more than a decade stale.

  15. Marius

    I never wore the yellow bracelet, but I was often surrounded by cyclists that did on rides during Armstrong’s glory days. My opinion is that he deserves to be remembered as a uniquely hypocritical and corrupting influence. Giving hope to many that was later taken away.

    Justifying the sins of Armstrong by saying that others also sinned seems to be morally flawed. Bullying younger riders to dope and conspiring with the UCI seem to take his behavior to a different level. The result in the present is that I and others cannot watch a cycling race without cynicism, and often choose not to watch at all.

    While I wish the settlement amount had been higher, I also hope Armstrong can do good in the future and find his own redemption.

  16. John K

    Be interesting to see the actual accounting on this. My guess is that Lance is paying more than we realize and Floyd will get very little in the end. The lawyers, I’m sure, did very well on all sides. Justice has been served.

  17. Walter

    I was a LA fan, admired his racing and believed him. When he admitted his doping, I was most upset over his attack dog mentality with those who opposed him (truthfully). I got that they all doped.

    About a year ago I had a chance sit down with Armstrong in a very casual setting with just a couple of folks around. He had no reason to convince me (or the other people there) of anything. I was not a friend and had never even met him before. I was impressed by his contrition over the entire deal and his frank admission that he knew he was getting hit a lot harder because of his bullying, which he also admitted was wrong. “I brought this on myself.” The plain, undeniable reality is that many others did as much (on the doping front only) and were treated with kid gloves relatively.

    Landis was part of the same doping deal (at USPS and later at Phonak), lied through his teeth like so many others about it, but took it a step further by getting lots of money ($478+K) for his “defense” all based upon his lies (which triggered federal prosecution ending in a deferred prosecution agreement based upon promised restitution). As for bullying, remember his (through his manager) disgraceful attempt to quiet LeMond at the Landis administrative hearings after LeMond’s personal disclosure to him?

    With regard to the settlement amount, my belief is that the Govt felt justifiably squishy about its chances at trial and folded its tents.

    Bottom line: It was great watching Armstrong race. It is just time to move on from it all. We have allowed a host of others back in…we should LA as well.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      The government folded the case not because it was bad, but because of a change in judges, and with the change in judges came a change of attitudes toward doped athletes. The judge that presided over the end of the case previously had a relationship with the NFL. The case was, in fact, incredibly strong.

  18. Ray akamuri

    Wow. Hypocrisy knows no bounds. You cheer on Landis who admitted to doping only after being caught yet you keep piling on Armstrong because he is an arrogant jerk. And not “making amends” to Andreu. My take is that Andreu was a grown man and a doper as well. I am puzzled by this derailing his career. Maybe I don’t know something that you do. Care to elaborate?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Armstrong got Andreu fired from his gig as team director for Toyota United, plus another team, as well as got him canned from his gig as a TV commentator all because he wouldn’t retract his sworn testimony that he heard Lance admit to doping while being treated for testicular cancer, which, incidentally, was supposed to be sealed; the Andreus only agreed to testify because they were told their testimony would remain private. Then it got leaked and Armstrong made their lives hell. This isn’t remotely secret info. It’s contained in numerous articles and detailed in several books.

  19. Dave

    So tell me–how many of the Americans who got off of their couches and on bikes due to Lance’s inspiration might still be out there riding? I have a roadie-oriented bike business and can tell you that many are still riding. Lance helped create some lifetime cyclists and nobody in their right mind should complain about that.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I tend to think of Machiavelli’s assertion that the ends justify the means is bad for society.

  20. Bryin

    Lance Armstrong has a been a cancer on the world since he was about 16 years old. Everything he has said or done in his adult life has been for his best interest and held no concern for how it impacted others. He has absolutely no moral compass or conscience. Any positive contribution he every made to society was a by-product of his self interest. The list of people that suffered because of Armstrong is long and he has done nothing of substance to rectify it.

  21. Walter

    “The government folded the case not because it was bad, but because of a change in judges, and with the change in judges came a change of attitudes toward doped athletes. The judge that presided over the end of the case previously had a relationship with the NFL. The case was, in fact, incredibly strong.”

    My understanding is that the pretrial motions (including the motions in limine over a lot of the witness and evidence detail) were all resolved. The jury would make the fact decisions, not the judge (whether new or old) in the trial.

    You are right on the liability issue…it was strong. The Achilles heel of the Govt’s position was the damages question, to wit: were there any for the USPS. The interesting contract claim was gone via a pretrial motion ruling.

    There is no dispute that LA treated many folks incredibly poorly and caused them a lot of heartache, financial loss, and more.

  22. Donnie

    The current judge had the case since July 2014 so that can’t be the reason for the settlement. The fact it settled for $5M is due to the strength (or weakness) of the case and damages, The Gov’t case was in a very weak state.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Reasonable people can argue the merits of the case, but what I’ll say about the length of time has drug on has nothing to do with its merits and everything to do with the multitude of tactics that Armstrong’s legal team employed to try to get it dismissed or delayed. If the case was really that weak, I don’t see why they would have used so many arcane angles to try to get it shot down. The kitchen sink approach to the defense tells me they were frightened of what might happen had the case gone to court.

  23. TM-low

    Padraig- I appreciate and applaud your stance, your thoughtful perspective on the LA issue is refreshing and your mature and articulate responses to those who don’t see things from where you are sitting is also respectable. I share similar sentiments on the issue of Armstrong, his treatment of others and his inability or utter lack of desire to lay all to bare and apologize in a genuine and meaningful way to all of the lives he has disrupted/nearly destroyed. It wouldn’t change much, based on the experience of countless others, but I think of what I would say to Armstrong if I had an opportunity… I certainly would not hesitate to point out how widespread and damaging the impact of his deception and bullying have been, not only to those directly impacted but to those in the public (cyclists, non-cyclists, etc) who do their best to live in an ethical and honorable manner- who adhere to rules, not so much because “they are there” but because the order and the benevolence that comes with such a belief system is the proper thing to do in a society that is so quick to worship celebrities and sports “heroes” who seemingly are allowed to, or excused and able to operate outside of the realm of accountability. I feel that is the larger message here and Armstrong is just a very readily available example of the dangers that lie in “going all in” on the famous, talented and wealthy. In and of itself; talent, wealth and fame are not a collective negativism.. but I would argue that those with such gifts have a responsibility to ask more of themselves and to hold themselves accountable and to be held accountable. I am not perfect, I have been unkind and done things I feel bad about- I am, however, willing to admit these things- why is it different for anyone else?

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