Cycling reels from doping scandals

Kai Ryssdal Aug 3, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Tour de France winner Floyd Landis is back here at his home in California. But his future’s sitting in a vial in a laboratory just outside Paris. It’s what’s called his B sample. Doping inspectors began testing it today. Expectations are that it, too, will test positive for elevated levels of testosterone.

If that happens, Landis could be stripped of his title. Fired by his racing team. Banned for a couple of years. And become just the latest in a long line of cheaters. Our business of sports analyst Diana Nyad is with us.

Hey Diana.

DIANA NYAD: Kai, what’s going on.

RYSSDAL: Let me ask you about a thing that’s been on my mind. There is a guilt by association thing that sort of happens when somebody like Floyd Landis gets tested, presumptively, posted. First of all, the Tour suffers in no small degree.

NYAD: The country, actually all of western Europe, virtually shuts down during the Tour. A hundred years storied history of this wildly popular race. So the tour’s not going to go away. But now, with the top rider, the winner, being accused . . . And I could go so far as to say — I don’t think I’d get in trouble saying — probability that he’s going to be busted also and lose the title.

I mean, ZDF, which is one of the top television networks in Germany, where it rages over there, has said, “Chances are we’re not even going to cover the Tour next year. I mean, that’s an outrageous statement.

RYSSDAL: There’s obviously a reputation penalty that gets paid when you are associated with drug use. Barry Bonds with the Giants. Floyd Landis, Justin Gatlin, the Olympic runner who’s also had, we understand, a positive test. But what happens to them now financially? I mean, do endorsements dry up overnight? Or, I mean, Barry Bonds is doing fine. What’s happening to Floyd?

NYAD: Overnight they dry up. Now Floyd Landis has been paid $1 million a year by his Phonak team. That’s his yearly salary. He’s got endorsements on top of that. All those, they’re out. They all now, most of them, have clauses. You know, Nike has a clause now that says, you know, if you’re caught doing drugs, the end. Your contract? Boom. Out. You’re done. And then he got $2.5 million for winning the Tour, but he hasn’t been paid that yet. And you can imagine where that’s going to go.

Now, let’s say he gets his two-year ban. You tell me. You’re the CEO of any company, western Europe, America, everything . . . You want to be associated with him?

RYSSDAL: No. Forget it. Forget it. Right. . . . Let me ask you what seems to me to be a common-sense question. You’ve been around athletics your whole life. You know athletes. You’re friends with many. Why, though, do people like Floyd Landis, when they know they’re going to be tested, why do they use drugs?

NYAD: No. 1, I think, the doctors, the agents, all that entourage that surrounds them, tells them: You’ve gotta do it. You can’t keep up with the Joneses, so to speak, unless you do . . . It’s an unspoken rule. Everybody out there’s doing it. And don’t worry. We’re so sophisticated we can beat the testers. More than that, though, Kai, honestly . . . Did you hear Oscar Pereiro, who finished second this year, what his byte was?

RYSSDAL: No, what did he say?

NYAD: He says, Look, they say they’re going to strip this title away from Floyd Landis if he’s dirty. They’re gonna give me the title. I was out there. He was the best rider this year. He, no matter what they do, it’s a bureaucratic decision and he will be the 2006 — Landis — winner of the Tour de France. And that to my mind was the most telling of all the quotes. Because he is basically saying, Look, these guys who make up these rules don’t understand what we do. These drugs don’t make us more talented. It’s not cheating.

RYSSDAL: Then why should we believe. Why should we as fans believe in any of this anymore? Whether it’s home runs or the Tour. Why should we believe?

NYAD: You know what? I’m in the minority but I’ve been here for quite a long time. And that is that I think we should just open it wide up. I don’t think we really can control it anymore. And I think that the even playing field that everybody else talks about, taking no drugs, I think we should make it the even playing field of you experiment to your heart’s content . . .

RYSSDAL: But we know it’s bad for you. We know it kills you and it does bad things to your body. It makes you ill-tempered an all these sorts of things.

NYAD: But it’s just like the argment of legalizing drugs. If drugs were legal, then you’d have doctors and all kinds of agencies making sure that you take it in the right doses. And you take it very carefully. But right now, it’s black market. It’s under the table. And so that’s why people do get in trouble. It’s not necessarily bad for you if you do it the right way.

RYSSDAL: The business of sports, and a little bit more today from Diana Nyad. Thanks, Diana.

NYAD: Thank you, Kai.

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