Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Selena Roberts on Bad Boy Floyd: 'Too Amish country to be a Tour de France cheat'

Unless you get the New York Times Select online -- or the print edition of the Times -- you can't read Sports of the Times Columnist Selena Roberts. I think that's pretty dumb on the Times' part, but that's another blog item for another day.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, writes quite like Roberts, who takes on Bad Boy Floyd in her column Wednesday. Since you probably can't access the column, I'm providing it here:

Armstrong Strategy, but He Isn't Armstrong
By SELENA ROBERTS

Floyd Landis demanded an open hearing to dupe the public with his quaint props, with a symbolic yellow tie under his shirt collar, with his mother in the courtroom wearing a bonnet, with his father all but ready to churn butter for the jury.

Floyd, too Amish country to be a Tour de France cheat. Floyd, wholesome as a buggy ride.

Transparency is a fickle ally. On his way to applying a version of the Lance Armstrong Denial Strategy — play up sympathetic image to create a martyr’s platform, wear down accusers by placing them on trial — Landis underestimated the value of a lens cap.

Dark sides are not photogenic. And with each passing day of his arbitration fight with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the credibility of a French lab and dense debate over chromatography have been rendered footnotes by each salacious revelation impugning Landis’s character.

First, never tell this man a secret. In August, Greg LeMond confided in Landis the pain of hiding his childhood sexual abuse in an effort to relate the value of coming clean.

Under cross-examination yesterday, Landis was forced to explain what he knew of a lurid phone call his buddy and manager, Will Geoghegan, placed to LeMond, a USADA witness, last Wednesday in an attempt to intimidate him by threatening to disclose his trauma.

At first, Geoghegan had explained it away as a stupid call over a few beers with Landis out of earshot. But in reality, Landis knew of the vicious crank call before anyone and told no one. Yes, Geoghegan was fired, but not until LeMond had painted a creepy picture of the Landis entourage last Thursday while on the witness stand.

“You knew it would shatter your credibility if it came out that Geoghegan made the call?” the USADA lawyer Matt Barnett asked Landis yesterday.

“He’s my friend,” Landis replied.

What kind of company does Landis keep? Geoghegan was ushered out of sight and off to rehab; given the Malibu, Calif., locale of the hearing, he had many options for his convenient disappearance.

Another thinly veiled maneuver in the Landis camp. Another Hollywood spin move for sympathy.

Whatever the outcome of his hearing — USADA is undefeated in these trials — Landis made ham-handed use of the Armstrong template for surviving doping allegations in the Champagne afterglow of a Tour de France victory.

It was just last July when the world gleefully packed away its cynicism for a few days to absorb the miracle ride of Landis, a strawberry-haired unknown from Lancaster County, Pa., who managed to pedal to Paris first even with a hip turning to dust.

Then, the killjoys in lab jackets materialized when Landis’s samples after he whisked through the Alps in Stage 17 revealed a spike in testosterone. He quickly turned to frat-boy logic as he offered excuses that ranged from a Jack Daniel’s binge or, not to brag, his naturally high river of testosterone.

He was ridiculed for the nonsense. He was blasted as a fraud. He was going nowhere with the public until he began channeling his inner Lance. Armstrong has never tested positive, but when faced with critics or tell-all books or affidavits or Dick Pound, he followed a blueprint to fight, sue, disparage and outshout the scrutiny on a visible stage that he built as a cancer survivor and advocate.

Mess with Lance. Mess with the masses. Somehow, the LiveStrong bracelet has emanated a force field around Armstrong.

Landis didn’t possess Armstrong’s untouchable status or vast Hollywood reach. His shtick was his homespun character. His vehicle became the town hall meeting. His platform became the Internet.

For months, Landis barnstormed the country, portraying himself as a victim of antidoping lords who were sinister and hypocritical and untrustworthy. He sold his saga to the Landis faithful or anyone willing to shell out around $30 for a seat. More people on his side, more money for a six-figure defense fund, more hits on his Web site with a link for donations.

He grew emboldened by the month. His rhetoric sharpened. His dismissal of USADA’s integrity hit hubristic tones.

He, like Lance, felt invincible. He, like Lance, maintained dubious associates. He, like Lance, could take on LeMond. In June 2006, LeMond, who testified against Armstrong in a legal dispute, told a French newspaper, “He threatened my wife, my business, my life.”

Armstrong basically labeled LeMond as one bike spoke short of loopy. As always, Armstrong deftly handled revelations of any mean streak. Armstrong knows how to handle exposure.

Landis only thought he did. Public forums have been his image undoing. Le Affair LeMond last week was not an isolated, vile slip-up by Landis’s posse. It was a tactic.

During the hearing, USADA lawyers brought up a Web site posting attributed to Landis, which read, “If he ever opens his mouth again and the word Floyd comes out, I will tell you all some things that you will wish you didn’t know and, unfortunately, I will have entered the race to the bottom, which is now in progress."

In front of the cameras he craved, Landis entered and won that race during his public hearing — no competition.

E-mail: selenasports@nytimes.com

No comments:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Selena Roberts on Bad Boy Floyd: 'Too Amish country to be a Tour de France cheat'

Unless you get the New York Times Select online -- or the print edition of the Times -- you can't read Sports of the Times Columnist Selena Roberts. I think that's pretty dumb on the Times' part, but that's another blog item for another day.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, writes quite like Roberts, who takes on Bad Boy Floyd in her column Wednesday. Since you probably can't access the column, I'm providing it here:

Armstrong Strategy, but He Isn't Armstrong
By SELENA ROBERTS

Floyd Landis demanded an open hearing to dupe the public with his quaint props, with a symbolic yellow tie under his shirt collar, with his mother in the courtroom wearing a bonnet, with his father all but ready to churn butter for the jury.

Floyd, too Amish country to be a Tour de France cheat. Floyd, wholesome as a buggy ride.

Transparency is a fickle ally. On his way to applying a version of the Lance Armstrong Denial Strategy — play up sympathetic image to create a martyr’s platform, wear down accusers by placing them on trial — Landis underestimated the value of a lens cap.

Dark sides are not photogenic. And with each passing day of his arbitration fight with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the credibility of a French lab and dense debate over chromatography have been rendered footnotes by each salacious revelation impugning Landis’s character.

First, never tell this man a secret. In August, Greg LeMond confided in Landis the pain of hiding his childhood sexual abuse in an effort to relate the value of coming clean.

Under cross-examination yesterday, Landis was forced to explain what he knew of a lurid phone call his buddy and manager, Will Geoghegan, placed to LeMond, a USADA witness, last Wednesday in an attempt to intimidate him by threatening to disclose his trauma.

At first, Geoghegan had explained it away as a stupid call over a few beers with Landis out of earshot. But in reality, Landis knew of the vicious crank call before anyone and told no one. Yes, Geoghegan was fired, but not until LeMond had painted a creepy picture of the Landis entourage last Thursday while on the witness stand.

“You knew it would shatter your credibility if it came out that Geoghegan made the call?” the USADA lawyer Matt Barnett asked Landis yesterday.

“He’s my friend,” Landis replied.

What kind of company does Landis keep? Geoghegan was ushered out of sight and off to rehab; given the Malibu, Calif., locale of the hearing, he had many options for his convenient disappearance.

Another thinly veiled maneuver in the Landis camp. Another Hollywood spin move for sympathy.

Whatever the outcome of his hearing — USADA is undefeated in these trials — Landis made ham-handed use of the Armstrong template for surviving doping allegations in the Champagne afterglow of a Tour de France victory.

It was just last July when the world gleefully packed away its cynicism for a few days to absorb the miracle ride of Landis, a strawberry-haired unknown from Lancaster County, Pa., who managed to pedal to Paris first even with a hip turning to dust.

Then, the killjoys in lab jackets materialized when Landis’s samples after he whisked through the Alps in Stage 17 revealed a spike in testosterone. He quickly turned to frat-boy logic as he offered excuses that ranged from a Jack Daniel’s binge or, not to brag, his naturally high river of testosterone.

He was ridiculed for the nonsense. He was blasted as a fraud. He was going nowhere with the public until he began channeling his inner Lance. Armstrong has never tested positive, but when faced with critics or tell-all books or affidavits or Dick Pound, he followed a blueprint to fight, sue, disparage and outshout the scrutiny on a visible stage that he built as a cancer survivor and advocate.

Mess with Lance. Mess with the masses. Somehow, the LiveStrong bracelet has emanated a force field around Armstrong.

Landis didn’t possess Armstrong’s untouchable status or vast Hollywood reach. His shtick was his homespun character. His vehicle became the town hall meeting. His platform became the Internet.

For months, Landis barnstormed the country, portraying himself as a victim of antidoping lords who were sinister and hypocritical and untrustworthy. He sold his saga to the Landis faithful or anyone willing to shell out around $30 for a seat. More people on his side, more money for a six-figure defense fund, more hits on his Web site with a link for donations.

He grew emboldened by the month. His rhetoric sharpened. His dismissal of USADA’s integrity hit hubristic tones.

He, like Lance, felt invincible. He, like Lance, maintained dubious associates. He, like Lance, could take on LeMond. In June 2006, LeMond, who testified against Armstrong in a legal dispute, told a French newspaper, “He threatened my wife, my business, my life.”

Armstrong basically labeled LeMond as one bike spoke short of loopy. As always, Armstrong deftly handled revelations of any mean streak. Armstrong knows how to handle exposure.

Landis only thought he did. Public forums have been his image undoing. Le Affair LeMond last week was not an isolated, vile slip-up by Landis’s posse. It was a tactic.

During the hearing, USADA lawyers brought up a Web site posting attributed to Landis, which read, “If he ever opens his mouth again and the word Floyd comes out, I will tell you all some things that you will wish you didn’t know and, unfortunately, I will have entered the race to the bottom, which is now in progress."

In front of the cameras he craved, Landis entered and won that race during his public hearing — no competition.

E-mail: selenasports@nytimes.com

No comments: