After four years of maintaining his innocence about doping charges that ruined his reputation and caused him to be stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, the American cyclist Floyd Landis has sent e-mail messages to several cycling officials in the United States and in Europe in which he admits using performance-enhancing drugs for most of his career.
Two of those officials said that Landis’s messages provided a detailed description of doping that began in 2002, Landis’s first year alongside then-teammate Lance Armstrong. Both were riding for the successful but now-defunct United States Postal Service team. The two officials who received the e-mail did not want their names published, citing ongoing investigations, including by federal authorities, into the content of the e-mail.
In the messages, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Landis accused other top American cyclists on the Postal Service team, including Armstrong, of using performance-enhancing drugs and methods. Other cyclists named were current United States road racing national champion George Hincapie, three-time Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer and five-time United States time trial champion David Zabriskie.
None of those riders, who are all competing at this week’s Tour of California, were available for comment Wednesday.
Jonathan Vaughters, team manager of Zabriskie’s Garmin-Transitions team, said that Zabriskie was upset after learning of Landis’s accusations late Wednesday.
“I don’t know what is in the head of Floyd Landis, what his motivations are, but I think Dave just wants to get on with this race,” Vaughters said of Zabriskie, who is in the overall lead of the Tour of California, with four stages to go. “Dave can win this race. He can win this race clean, under any level of scrutiny.”
Steve Johnson, chief executive of USA Cycling and the main recipient of Landis’s e-mail messages, did not return several calls for this article on Wednesday. Landis also did not return phone calls, but told ESPN.com that he had no documentation to prove most of his claims against his former teammates.
“I want to clear my conscience,” said Landis, who races with the lower level OUCH-Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling team. “I don’t want to be part of the problem anymore.”
Landis provided detailed information about his own doping practices, saying he consistently used the blood-booster EPO to increase his endurance, testosterone, human growth hormone and blood transfusions.
He said he took female hormones and tried insulin once during the years he rode for the Postal Service and Swiss-based Phonak teams, according to ESPN.com. He spent $90,000 a year on his doping regimen, he said.
Landis said that some of his teammates on the Postal Service team were well aware of the doping regimen in the sport. In at least one of his messages to cycling officials, according to a person who received it, Landis said that he and Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion, had discussed the need to use blood transfusions to boost endurance. A new test for the synthetic blood-booster, EPO, had made doping more difficult.
Armstrong, who has been dogged by doping allegations throughout his career, has denied doping and has never officially tested positive. At the 1999 Tour, he failed a test for a corticosteroid, but produced a doctor’s note for it.
For Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union, Landis’s accusations do not taint Armstrong’s reputation one bit.
“I think Landis is in a very sad situation and I feel sorry for the guy because I don’t accept anything he says as true,” McQuaid said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “This is a guy who has been condemned in court, who has stood up in court and stated that he never saw any doping in cycling. He’s written a book saying he won the Tour de France clean. Where does that leave his credibility? He has an agenda and is obviously out to seek revenge.”
McQuaid said he received Landis’s e-mail messages several weeks ago, but immediately discounted the accusations in them because they were “purely allegations and no proof of anything.” He has since sent the messages to the cycling union’s legal department.
Federal authorities have spoken with Landis in recent weeks about the information in the e-mail, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Landis, who spent nearly two years and reportedly more than $2 million fighting the charges against him, has agreed to cooperate with the authorities and provide them with the same information he has provided anti-doping and cycling officials. The authorities are interested in whatever information Landis has about distributors of banned substances and new methods of doping being used by athletes.
Over the past month, Landis also has been cooperating with officials from the United States Anti-Doping Agency, providing them with details about the other cyclists and Armstrong, the people briefed on the matter said.
Jeff Novitzky, federal agent who spearheaded the investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroids case, is involved in the investigation. It is not clear whether Landis has contacted him via e-mail or telephone.