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Landis lands a blow

Sports | New allegations of doping have the American cycling world playing defense

Issue: "How Mark Souder fell," June 19, 2010

Cyclist Floyd Landis has changed his tune. After years of denying all doping allegations, including those that led to the stripping of his 2006 Tour de France victory, the beleaguered athlete confessed all in a recent series of emails to cycling officials and sponsors. He admitted to using blood transfusions and performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career and alleged that many other big-name American cyclists had done the same-including Lance Armstrong.

The bombshell accusations triggered a fresh round of denials from the named athletes. Armstrong called a press conference to point out the charges' credibility gap. "Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago," he said. "I'd remind everybody that this is a man that's been under oath several times and had a very different version. This is a man that wrote a book for profit that had a completely different version. This is somebody that took, some would say, close to $1 million from innocent people for his defense under a different premise. Now when it's all run out the story changes."

Andy Rihs, the owner of a Swiss cycling team for which Landis used to ride, called the new revelations "lies" and said in a written statement that the ordeal amounts to "a last tragic attempt of Landis to once again gain public recognition."

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Without question, Landis is far from the most trustworthy source on such issues. His adamant denials of doping, even after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency found him guilty and imposed a two-year suspension from the sport, now stand as monuments of betrayed public trust.

But the believability of these latest disclosures could get a boost in the public eye from the track record of past whistleblowers. When it comes to doping allegations over the last few decades, fans have learned to assume the worst, no matter how unreliable the source. José Conseco in baseball, Trevor Graham in track, and Steve Courson in football have all proved far more credible than expected. Landis might well prove the same.

Super cold

NFL owners have a habit of placing their league's grandest spectacle in warm climates. The state of Florida has hosted the Super Bowl 15 times, California 11 times, Louisiana 10, Texas 3. Call it a nod to the corporate bigwigs and Gucci-bag-toting models that typically fill the stands.

But in 2014, the bourgeoisie of American sports fans will don parkas for a Super Bowl in the New York metropolitan area. All it took to pry the game northward was a new $1.6 billion facility and a chance to host the contest just outside the largest city in the nation. Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., the newly minted home of the Jets and Giants, was an unlikely choice until NFL commissioner Roger Goodell got behind the bid, appealing to nostalgia for the cold-weather affairs of Super Bowls of yore.

Even with the head man's backing, many sports prognosticators doubted the owners would make such a pick. The New York/New Jersey area in February is often awash in sleet, snow, and hurricane-force winds. Of course, for the overwhelming majority of watching fans that kind of weather will matter little as they down chicken wings and cold beer from the comfort of their living rooms.


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