Thursday, December 14, 2006

Landis Will Quit Cycling If Found Guilty...


Eurosport - Tour de France first-place finisher Floyd Landis said he would quit the sport if he received a long enough suspension in his doping trial.

"If I lost, I'm not sure I could carry on," Landis said as his trial before the USADA is set to start in early 2007.

"I wasn't the highest-paid cyclist and it's looking like this might cost me $500,000. I think the authorities know I'll run out of money. They've said they'll appeal if they lose the hearing and that might take another year.

"If I'm banned for four years and stripped of my title and prize-money, I'll never race again. My desire for it would have been obliterated."

The American was verbally stripped of his title by Tour organisers and denied his prize money after testing positive for excessive testosterone levels during his astonishing stage 17 come from behind victory.

Since his Grande Boucle drama, the 31-year-old was sacked from his now-defunct Phonak team, had his father-in-law commit suicide, and underwent hip surgery.

Though family and friends did not blame Landis for David Witt's suicide, the former US Postal rider said he felt partly responsible.

"I don't know why he did it," Landis said in the extensive interview with the Mail on Sunday. "But I'd be deluding myself if I thought the dope case did not play a big part in his stress.

"He was a good friend long before he became my father-in-law. We used to cycle together, we even came out here, to Borrego Springs, to train.

"He was in the Champs-Elysees the day I won the Tour and he was at the victory party.

"I didn't talk to him the week before he died. I feel really bad about that but I was completely consumed by the accusations levelled against me. Maybe, if I had, he would have said something about how he felt. Now it's too late and we'll never know why." Add to his family's trauma, Landis was visited by random drug testers just three days after Witt's death.

"My wife, Amber, answered the door and almost had a total breakdown," Landis said.

"She started to scream and cry, telling them that they had ruined her life.

"I apologised to the man because he was only carrying out his job. He told me that he'd been asked to do a random drug test on me the day after David died and his death became national news.

"The man told me he refused to visit me then but had to come two days later. I asked him to let my family have some dignity. We still had to go through with the funeral."

Landis said he believed that any outcome in his case before the American doping authorities would have a negative result.

"How can cycling win? Either the winner of its greatest race is a cheat or the credibility of the system is in tatters if I'm found innocent," he said. "Neither is a great result."

Even if he is officially stripped of his title and the £600,000 prize money that comes with it, Landis said he will hold on to one heirloom.

"I may never get my prize money and I may lose my title as Tour de France champion, but there's one thing they'll never get from me," he said.

"I have the yellow jersey at home and that's where it's going to stay for the rest of my life." (yeah, right next to your box of testosterone patches)