The LeMond Incident, One Week Later

by Rant on May 25, 2007 · 8 comments

in Doping in Sports, Floyd Landis, Tour de France

OK, the headline should really say “eight days later” if you’re a stickler for accuracy.

I doubt there’s a sports fan in the world who hasn’t already heard about the LeMond Incident during last week’s arbitration hearings into anti-doping charges against Floyd Landis. So I’m not going to repeat the gory details of what happened, except to say that the perpetrator should never have picked up his phone to make The Call. What on earth could it possibly have accomplished, except making Landis look like total slime, or a would-be Tony Soprano, minus the girth and the mafia connections?

Another question has been floating around my mind about LeMond’s agreeing to testify in the Landis hearings. And that is: What would LeMond get out of testifying in the hearings? Assume, for a moment, that The Call never happened. What was in it for Greg to testify at the Landis hearings?

Now, we’ve heard his story that Landis sort of, kind of, maybe admitted to something while they were talking. Maybe he didn’t outright say he doped goes the LeMond version, but it was understood. And come to find out Greg told Floyd a deep, dark secret as a way of illustrating what holding something in can do to a person.

On the Landis side, the story about the call to LeMond goes that Landis didn’t say he doped. He said he was innocent of the charges, so what good would admitting to something he didn’t do, other than hurt a lot of innocent people around him? So, who do you believe, Greg or Floyd? Because that’s what this story boils down to. It’s a classic he-said/he-said tale.

That USADA wanted LeMond to testify about the conversation was obvious to any casual observer of the Landis saga. But USADA was building their case, in part, by going after Landis’ character. And, unfortunately, Will Geoghegan handed them a huge gift in that regard, all neatly wrapped up with a bow. But let’s take a closer look.

After dropping that bombshell during LeMond’s testimony last week, USADA trotted out an Internet posting where Landis, in a fit of frustration over LeMond’s continued harping to the press last autumn, said he’d tell some stories about LeMond that would then place Landis “in the race to the bottom that is now in progress.” USADA’s implication by showing that bit of evidence after LeMond spoke of the phone call between himself and Floyd, and spoke of Geoghegan’s call, was clearly designed to make a connection between the two.

LeMond felt that Landis’ posting last fall was a threat to reveal his secret. Could have been. Even likely. But there are other rumors about our storied first American Tour de France winner floating around in cyberspace, none of which I’ll repeat here. Was Landis threatening to reveal LeMond’s secret back in November, or was he threatening to reveal something else? Look closely at the questions asked of Landis about the incident. I don’t recall that question being directly asked — by either side. Update: Actually, Landis was asked about this. For more information, see Julie’s comment on this post.

Set aside what Geoghegan did for a minute. Here’s something to consider: USADA had asked for all of Landis’ Internet postings during an April discovery request. Unfortunately, a number of posts by Landis on the Daily Peloton Forums were lost when the database storing his comments and a large number of comments by others crashed. There was only one place that had recorded part of Landis’ commentary, and when LeMond testified, a printout of that quote was shown for all to see.

Now ask yourself: Do you think USADA already had that printout, or did someone pull an all-nighter to find it? My hunch is that USADA came to the hearings prepared to ask about that posting at the DPF, even before Will Geoghegan lifted his cellphone. Did they happen to mention that to LeMond? Surely he was told the basic outline of their questioning and what they expected the other side’s questioning to be. And USADA clearly must have expected questions about another case, where LeMond testified against another TdF winner.

At the very least LeMond expected to be asked about that. He came prepared. He had his attorney with him. And he refused to answer any questions about Lance, or that other case. Which means the questions Howard Jacobs had about LeMond’s motivation to be at the Landis hearings never got asked and never got answered.

But, given that LeMond must have known the general gist of the questioning, he must have known he’d be asked about The Secret. If USADA didn’t tell him that, well, that shows how much they would hang someone out to dry in order to get a doping conviction. And if LeMond didn’t know he’d be asked, or his lawyer didn’t know, they both are naïve — or foolish.

Think about it: Landis threatened to reveal something deep and dark about Greg LeMond, or at least, that would be a reasonable reading of his comment in November. Remember, though, that there’s some context missing, in that none of us can see the entire thread of questions, comments, and so forth that led up to what Landis said. And we can’t see the rest of what he wrote in that particular comment, either. Just the part that was preserved for posterity. (I remember seeing the full post before the DPF crashed. And I remember there was more to it, but I don’t remember how much or the exact wording.)

Anyway, back to The Secret. In order for USADA to really paint a picture of how awful a person Landis must be (after all, they made character an issue), the secret Landis was threatening to reveal would have to come out. After all, if this is a true threat, and not the ravings of a drunken fool, Landis would need to know something terrible, something that would really make Greg LeMond look awful in the eyes of the public.

And that awful secret would need to be revealed in testimony, otherwise, Team Landis could have said, “Hey, look, Floyd hardly knows Greg. What kind of terrible thing could he really be able to reveal about him? Floyd was just frustrated and upset and foolishly posted this comment, hoping LeMond would get the hint and stop talking about his case.”

Like I said, LeMond or his attorney should have seen that question coming. Not to answer it would have been to let Team Landis shoot at least a small hole in his testimony. The question is: Would he have told The Secret if Will Geoghegan had never made The Call?

We’ll never know, of course. But the question would have been asked, regardless. That much I can guarantee. If not by USADA’s lawyers, then by Howard Jacobs. But what about being a victim of sexual abuse would make LeMond look like a terrible person? There should be no shame in being a victim. That was something beyond his control. And being a victim of sexual abuse doesn’t automatically make you an emotionally disturbed person.

Still, it was something LeMond felt some sort of shame about, and it should have remained private, if that’s what he wanted. To bring it out in public, against his wishes, would be an awful thing to do. And it became public in a big way, courtesy of The Call.

Truth be told, however, when Greg LeMond agreed to testify, he agreed to be asked about The Secret. Whether he knew it or not. And whether he knew it or not, one of the attorneys involved would have pressed him about it, and he might have been forced to reveal it, anyway.

Now, this is not about blaming the victim. And in terms of his past, LeMond was victimized twice. Once by the abuser, and the second time by this arbitration process. Will Geoghegan, in my estimation, inadvertently did USADA’s dirty work. But that’s not to excuse Will for making The Call. It was deeply, truly wrong of him to do so.

There is, however, one other possibility. And that is Greg LeMond knew he’d be asked, and was OK with answering. One story I’ve heard is that he’s writing a book about that experience. Good for him if he is. If that’s true, I hope he donates the royalties to some organization that helps other victims of sexual abuse. At least some good could come from having endured such an awful thing.

But I keep circling back to: What would Greg LeMond get out of testifying for USADA? Look at another storied Tour winner, Eddy Merckx. Team Landis listed Merckx as a potential witness, and he politely said no. He didn’t want to get caught in the middle, and didn’t see what he could add. LeMond was in a remarkably similar position. Other than a supposed implicit confession, which amounts to nothing more than hearsay, there was nothing he really knows about the truth of what happened at the Tour.

The case against Floyd Landis should have been about whether he doped on Stage 17, but USADA chose to make the case broader. And they chose to make character an issue. For that they needed Greg LeMond.

Ultimately, I can’t imagine that LeMond’s testimony will amount to a whole hill of beans when the arbitrators’ decision gets announced. Unless, that is, the decision comes in the form of a non-analytical positive finding, saying that the Stage 17 results were inconclusive, but this other evidence was enough to convict. If that’s the case, I’d bet the vote would be 2-1.

So what’s in it for Greg? As best I can see, by being so outspoken against doping, he must be angling for a seat at the anti-doping table. While he may have been a great cyclist, I fear for the anti-doping movement if LeMond becomes an influential person in the same vein as a certain Mr. Pound. LeMond strikes me as a true believer. But the problem with true believers is that they become so entrenched in their own rhetoric that their vision becomes clouded, and they can’t step back and see things from an alternate point of view.

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Julie May 25, 2007 at 8:18 am

Just to clarify, that story about Greg writing a book came from Floyd, on the stand last Saturday. He said that when Greg called him after the Nov. post, Greg said it didn’t matter if Floyd said anything about the abuse, because he (Greg) was writing a book about it. Floyd also said, I believe in both direct and cross, that the “threat” in that post wasn’t about the abuse, it was about other things Greg said. So I agree, LeMond would’ve been fully prepared to talk about the abuse in his testimony. Similarly, I’ve never seen The Call as a threat to expose, it wasn’t worded that way in the call itself, and as this other evidence indicates, exposure was not an issue for Greg. I’m fine with it being called threatening, and criminal, and so on, but not a threat to expose. As for what LeMond is getting – well, one confessed subsequent Tour winner down (Bjarne Riis), how many to go? I still don’t buy everything LeMond says, but he just might have a point or two.

JIM May 25, 2007 at 9:06 am

As a casual observer, Greg LeMond has always seem to be a bit of a nut-case to me…. therefore his side of the story seem at the very least unreliable.

trust but verify May 25, 2007 at 12:36 pm

There was another question asked during cross (which I did not try to capture), where he was asked about the nature of what Landis was implying he would expose that would damage perceptions of Lemond’s characted.

Landis said it was dirt about the way he accused all TDF winners after him to be dopers.

I believe that was what Jacobs was attempting to question him about.

Someone with patience can find it in the video.

TBV

Philip May 25, 2007 at 12:51 pm

I find it hard to believe that Lemond has no doping in his past! I have heard tales of the night before he beat Fignin in the final TT he was so amped up his entourage had to keep him up walking around?

Rant May 25, 2007 at 12:57 pm

Julie,

Thanks for pointing that out.

Jim,

There are stories I could tell from my days working in the bicycle retail industry … but I’ll refrain.

TBV,

Thanks. I wasn’t able to get into the video stream, so I missed that. I’ll try to watch his testimony at some point and see if I can capture that question.

Philip,

I’ve heard some rumors … but unlike Mr. Pound, I won’t repeat them, as they are hearsay (and what’s been told to me may not have been against the rules at the time).
– Rant

PEM May 25, 2007 at 5:34 pm

The sections TBV refers to, starts at the 74 minute mark on the 05/22/07 AM archived broadcast for the cross examination, and the 187 minute mark on the 05/19/07 PM direct examination.

Landis did not mention “dirt about TDF winners” during the direct. On the direct, he mentions speaking to Lemond and apologizing for inferring he would disclose the molesting background, and that it was not in his nature to do it in the first place.

During the cross, he first mentions the threat was about Lemond’s knowledge about TDF winners that dope. Later in the cross, he states he would not have disclosed knowledge about the molesting.

Access to the archived broadcasts are at http://www.floydlandis.com/case/

Rant May 25, 2007 at 6:04 pm

PEM,

Thanks for the info. Most appreciated. Now we all know where to look.

– Rant

Steve Balow May 26, 2007 at 4:18 am

Rant: You are right, it isn’t logical that LeMond feared disclosure of the molestation. Specifically, LeMond said that keeping the molestation secret nearly “destroyed” him and suggested that the cure was to to get things out in the open. Of course, LeMond thought Landis had a doping secret but it stands to reason that LeMond would take his own medicine and make his “secret” public. It is nearly impossible to see how LeMond could be threatened by anyone’s threat (Landis or Geoghegan) do what LeMond must have been willing to do himself. No, LeMond wasn’t threatened, he was playing to the crowds and to his own ego. Given the questionable character of current WADA bigmouths, you are also right that LeMond would fit right into that crowd.

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