Here's the latest news from cycling:
Floyd Landis, the American cyclist whose 2006 Tour de France victory was nullified after a positive doping test, has sent a series of emails to cycling officials and sponsors admitting to, and detailing, his systematic use of performance enhancing drugs during his career. The emails also claim that other riders and cycling officials allegedly participated in doping, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
People will find this news interesting for several reasons, but I have a special one: I actually read Landis' book. After he was stripped of the TdF victory, he launched a draining, $2 million legal battle to clear his name. Not only that, he wrote an entire book — called Positively False — arguing his case.
On practically every page of the book, he protested his innocence and harshly attacked the practices of the anti-doping agencies. A relative who's interested in cycling loaned me the book, and I read it, thinking it would be wise to keep an open mind until I heard Landis' side of the story. Ultimately, I found it only moderately convincing. Landis and his lawyers had obviously carefully examined the testing process and found some real flaws, but he was never able to come up with a convincing counter-explanation for his damning results. Reduced to its essentials, the argument was highly legalistic — not "I can prove I'm innocent," but rather "The process you used to prove my guilt was flawed." Many will call this a typically American defense, and I can see why.
Technical legal arguments aside, Landis stridently proclaimed his innocence. He never doped, anywhere, at any time, for any reason, evah. He was just an aw-shucks, corn-fed, goody-two-shoes Pennsylvania Dutch farmboy who was being unfairly targeted by the cynical (read: European) authorities. And frankly, the enormous financial sacrifices he was making to fight his appeal through all the instances gave his claims a bit of credibility. Why on earth would he bankrupt himself and put himself through hell for a lie?
Well, now we know the answer: because he had a sociopathic streak as wide as the Alps. He assured literally millions of people that he was innocent, and was consciously, knowingly lying the entire time. Am I wrong in thinking there's something American about this sort of brazen hypocrisy? Other examples abound: the male Christian fundamentalist anti-gay crusader who recently toured Europe while receiving "erotic massages" from a rent-boy, or the latest in an endless line of conservative 'family values' politicians found to have been screwing around. The latest of these sad sacks actually recorded a video praising sexual abstinence with the very aide he was shtupping!
I'm not saying that hypocrisy is uniquely American, of course. What I'm saying is that it seems that America produces an unusual number of hypocrites who not only live by double standards, but shamelessly, openly, and enthusiastically champion the very standards they daily violate in the bedroom or boardroom. I ascribe it to the narrow, unforgiving code of middle-class morality which most Americans feel the need to appear to be upholding. The inability to reconcile their drives and their image lead them to feats of compartmentalization that normal humans can only gape at in horrified fascination.
I may be off-base here, but I just don't find this particular brand of hypocrisy as often in Europe. Europeans are keen to keep their personal lives private, and aren't given to the kind of black-and-white 'straight talk' that leads to categorical statements such as "I never doped" or "I'm not gay" or "I would never cheat on my wife." The European style, to me, is embodied by Miterrand's famous quote: "I was born Christian and shall doubtless die in that condition. But meanwhile..."
And meanwhile, here, I want back the 3 hours I spent reading Landis' book, and the 4,593,254,210 synaptic firings I devoted to wondering whether he might have been the victim of injustice. And I'm not alone…