Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Walsh's "From Lance to Landis"

From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France
by David Walsh

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (June 26, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 034549962X
ISBN-13: 978-0345499622

Amazon delivered today, and Walsh's book, as expected, is mostly about Armstrong. Having not read his earlier coverage, I can't say exactly what's new, but it appears to be a retelling of old stories bolstered by new details and attributions from sources that have emerged over the last few years, mainly the SCA case.


Doing the "Washington Read" is difficult for lack of an index, but the last chapter, Twenty, before the Epilogue, is titled "I'll Say No." It's about Landis, and paints him as a straight forward guy who everybody likes who was quite possibly doping, and certainly looked like an idiot in the immediate aftermath of the positive A test. In Walsh's view, Landis got better at presenting a public image, but never told a good story.

Walsh quotes Ayotte as firmly behind a "single metabolite" standard, implying that is the last word on the issue. He seems to completely accept USADA's version of all the additional B sample testing talking points, without really discussing Landis' version of those same events. He concludes a section by letting Moreau complain that Landis is "looking for a comma out of place" and trying to "show up some technical irregularity."

Walsh uses then takes the opportunity to drag in the full Vaughters/Andreu IM exchange, including a claim that Lance and Bruyneel tried to punish him in 2004 for signing with Phonak by dumping his "rest day blood refill" down the drain before his eyes before stage 15. Of course, then he went out and finished 21th in the Alpe d'Huez TT on stage 16, and led Armstrong, Kloden and Ullrich over the Croix-Fry on stage 17, which impressed all.

The source for this story, and the "refrigerated bags on motorcycles" is claimed to be Landis. Which Landis denies to this day, but Walsh doesn't mention at all, that I saw.

The general impression is that Walsh is somewhat sympathetic to Landis, but thinks he's been led astray by a Great Satan somewhere -- presumably Armstrong and/or Bruyneel.

I have not read the entire book, only flipped through until I found Floyd. What is present is clearly agenda driven, which is not a sin, nor are the omissions -- Baker did similar things in his e-book on the Wiki Defense we talked about yesterday. Yet the impression is of a rehash of old stories without much truly new factual material or analysis.

It seems to me that if Landis was going to crack and turn on Armstrong, it would have happened by now. Floyd has never said anything I've heard or read to suggest anything bad about Lance, except that he can be a jerk, which isn't exactly news. The saga of the additional B sample testing seems to me to have always been a cash-draining exercise by USADA, not part of a search for truth.

We're left with a well-constructed collection of insinuation, but little provable fact. What I see of the coverage of the Landis case in the book seems to start from the presumption that he's guilty, that this implicates Lance, and everything is seen through that lens. Other details and readings are omitted as inconvenient to the thesis.

Is it worth the read? Perhaps to the same degree you watch cable news of an alternate persuasion, or sometimes listen to talk radio that rubs you the wrong way. It can be useful to know what is being said from viewpoints that diverge from your own. The book contains nothing that makes me reconsider my thoughts about Landis, and little that makes me care about whatever Armstrong may or may not have done.

There still doesn't seem to be a workable solution to the problem of doping, and I don't believe that getting high profile convictions is the key part of an answer. It would be better not to have the need for cases and convictions.



cat2bike said...

I think I'll save my money on that one....and spend it on Arnie Baker's ebook instead.


Illinoisfrank said...

It's about Landis, and paints him as a straight forward guy who everybody likes who was quite possibly doping, and certainly looked like an idiot in the immediate aftermath of the positive A test. In Walsh's view, Landis got better at presenting a public image, but never told a good story.
Obviously, the positive test surprised him. If he wasn't doping, a positive test should surprise him and he should not be expected to be able to "tell a good story". One might also say that he was doping and was surprised because he had passed several other tests. Of course, a doper might present a better story knowing that there is a chance he could be caught (or, perhaps, not).

Terry21 said...

I guess these arbitrators were not the source of leaks in the past. How far beyond 5 weeks will the decision linger?

TSVDP said...

I think there is a code of honor, a code of silence with these guys and it actually has a name that escapes me, didn't we see how Lance rode up to the guy, Bettini I think was his name and give him the "zip it up" signal during one of those tours? I think so.

DBrower said...


The word you're stumbling for is omerta, borrowed from the code of silence used by gangsters frequently of the mafiosi persuasion.

It's not like there's a blood ritual in some obscure Belgian road-side cafe.

The dynamics of the historic omerta in cycling are complex. I don't believe most riders actually know who might be doping -- they suspect, but don't know absolutely. While they know themselves, and may some people close to them, they do not know how widespread it is.

Thus, a decision to talk or not is based on many motivations -- be a whiner, be a (partial) truth teller with no proof, be silent and leave it be someone else's problem, be a silent (effective) co-conspirator...

...knowing all the time that dope talk is bad for the sporting/PR business of cycling, even if true.

Armstrong's position on Simeoni was allegedly the last one -- it was bad for business, and needed to be surpressed for that reason alone. The darker minded would say it's because he, LA, was a more involved conspirator. (I do not have a dog in that fight.)