If you saw the note on Neil Browne’s Browne Eye Blog yesterday, rumor was that Floyd Landis would be on Larry King Live tonight. Given the rather humorous nature of the post that Browne’s update was attached to, I wasn’t sure if he was kidding, or if it was for real. So I emailed Neil, and he told me that to the best of his knowledge Landis would actually be on Larry King’s show.
Not wanting to miss the opportunity to see what Landis has to say about the latest saga emanating from across the pond, I set the DVR to record Larry King Live. And, at the appointed hour, my wife and I tuned in to see if Floyd would really be on the telly. Sure enough, in the lead-in King showed pictures of Floyd and said he’s got an exclusive interview — an interview which was sandwiched between a bunch of talking heads speculating about the meaning of Tiger Woods’ upcoming pseudo-press conference tomorrow (apparently no questions will be allowed for the media who might attend Woods’ statement) and Priscilla Presley, who was promoting a new Lost Wages (er, that’s Las Vegas) show called “Viva Elvis.” (Full disclosure: I turned off the TV shortly after Presley’s portion began. I’m not a big fan of musicals, even ones about “The King.”)
I’m not entirely sure Larry King’s interview with Landis was completely exclusive, as Floyd did give a brief statement by email to the LA Times a couple of days ago (and also an answer to a follow-up question here), but it does seem like the first time since the arrest warrant stories broke that Floyd has spoken at length to a member of the press. Those who tuned in got to see Landis relaxed and confident in answering questions posed by one of the tougher interviewers in the business.
A few key points that Landis made during the brief interview:
- One, he didn’t hack into LNDD’s computers
- Two, he hasn’t received any summons or request to appear in front of the French judge regarding the hacking
- Three, he doesn’t know any more about what the judge and prosecutor in Nanterre are after than what’s been published
And somewhere in there, he cracked a smile and was able to laugh at how humorous the situation is. I’m hoping that the good folks at CNN will see fit to put Landis’ interview out on the Interwebs, so that those who missed it can see for themselves. Over the weekend, I’ll try to transcribe the interview. Update: No need, courtesy of Jeff, here’s the official CNN transcript. Landis’ interview is about one-third of the way down the page.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania …
One subject briefly alluded to by Dr. Brent Kay, who accompanied Floyd during the Larry King interview, was the news that Joe Papp pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to distribute performance enhancing drugs he imported from China. According to this Associated Press article, the charges cover the time from September 2006 to September 2007. Which means that at the time Joe Papp was testifying about his own use of performance-enhancing drugs and the toll it took on him and his life during the Landis versus USADA arbitration hearings at Pepperdine University School of Law, he was also operating a business distributing what the sporting community lovingly calls “dope.”
Joe Papp is a complicated character, from what I can see. Other than the spin that USADA was able to get in the media from Papp’s appearance on the stand, he had no direct evidence to offer that related to whether or not Floyd Landis did what he was accused of doing before Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. When the panel that heard the case released their ruling, they chose not to consider either Papp’s testimony or Greg LeMond’s testimony, rightly noting that neither had information that related directly to the charges at hand.
I’ve always been puzzled by what Papp got out of the whole experience. Back in August 2007, in this post, I noted:
[H]ere’s the thing that puzzles me about Papp’s involvement in the Landis case: From what I see of his suspension (he got the full two-year suspension that a first time user would get), and the reality of his situation (his career as a pro cyclist was finished, so whether he got a two-year ban or a lifetime ban wouldn’t much matter), what did he really get out of testifying for the prosecution? I can see what USADA got: Someone willing to chronicle his own experience with drugs as a way of suggesting how Floyd Landis might have done it. But Papp had no direct knowledge relating to Landis, all he could talk about were his own experiences.
Maurice Suh, one of Landis’ attorneys during his battle to clear his name, asked a rather pointed question of Papp during cross examination in those original hearings. While I don’t have the exact quote right now, the question was on the order of, “Are you aware that your testimony today could lead to drug trafficking charges?” Suh’s question had to do with Papp’s description of bringing performance-enhancing drugs back to the US from South America. And here we are, almost three years later, and Joe Papp is staring at a potential 10 years behind bars for, of all things, drug trafficking. The source of his contraband was different than what he testified about, but still, it amounts to the same thing.
It leaves me wondering, would the court of public opinion looked as favorably on Papp’s testimony if they knew he was still engaged in drug trafficking as he testified for USADA’s benefit? And would USADA have used Papp as a witness if they knew? (Or did they know, and they chose to ignore his activities?)
In the time since then, Joe Papp played a part in USADA’s doping case against former Rock Racing cyclist Kayle Leogrande. But for all his help to the American anti-doping officials, Papp still seems to have gotten nothing in return. If USADA told Joe Papp that they would stand behind him for testifying at the Landis hearing and helping out in other investigations, then what failed to mention was that not only would they stand behind him, they’d be out the door, down the hallway, past the city limits and 1000 miles away.
There’s a lesson in Papp’s case, but it’s probably not the lesson that Travis Tygart and the folks at USADA want athletes to learn. If you’re caught doping, and caught up in distributing doping products or know something about how the drugs are distributed, there is no real reason to cooperate with the anti-doping authorities. Unless you’ve got a sharp lawyer who can negotiate a rock-solid deal to reduce your suspension, and who can also keep the Feds off your back, you’re better off shutting up and accepting the suspension. Problem is that USADA, and other agencies like them, will have a tough time making headway in the doping wars if the people they catch have no incentive to spill what they know.
Rather than ridding sports of doping, illicit performance enhancement could actually be driven further underground. Talk about unintended consequences.