Floyd Landis has given up on his search for a team and has decided to retire from cycling.
The 35-year-old American has been in the spotlight since May, when it was revealed he had spoken at length to federal investigators looking into doping in American cycling.
That investigation, led by Jeff Novitzky of the Food and Drug Administration, is ongoing and has become broad in its remit. At its centre now is Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team that Landis rode for from 2002 to 2004.
Landis moved on to the Phonak team in 2005 and the following year finished first in the Tour de France before failing a dope test for synthetic testosterone. Months later he was stripped of his title, which was eventually given to Spaniard Oscar Pereiro.
Although Landis protested his innocence and wrote a book in his defence, called Positively False, the Phonak team folded after the scandal.
In 2009, Landis attempted a comeback with the Ouch presented by Maxxis team, a small American set-up. His results were unremarkable, although he did finish 23rd overall in the Tour of California. Last year, he hoped the team would be invited to the Tour of California but his team, Bahati Foundation, was denied a place.
With all eyes on Lance Armstrong and the Tour of California, Landis chose his moment to go public with damaging allegations of doping in the US Postal team.
Landis confessed to his own doping but said that it was systematic within the team. Armstrong and the team’s manager Johan Bruyneel denied that it was.
The allegations have divided the sport’s followers. Landis lied for so long that many refuse to believe he is now telling the truth.
In December, the award-winning Sunday Times journalist Paul Kimmage travelled to the United States to interview Landis, spending seven hours with him.
Last week, an interview with the Dutch television station, NOS Kimmage said: “I would put my hand in the fire right now and say that Floyd Landis is, without question, telling the truth. I asked him a lot of questions and the detail that he gave me about what happened on that team [US Postal Service] and about what happened in professional cycling, you cannot make that up.
“You would have to be an absolute psychopath to make up that level of detail.”
Landis told ESPN.com that his decision to retire from cycling would help him to move on. “I don’t want to come across that I’m quitting because I am bitter,” he told ESPN’s reporter Bonnie Ford. “I’ve spent five years trying to get to a place that I can never go back to and that’s causing more stress than it is worth. There must be more to life than this. I’ve been riding my bike a lot, trying to figure out life, which is the same reason I did it to start with, so I’ve come full circle. I’ll always ride my bike but I’ll never start on a line on a road and try to get to another line on a road faster than another guy.”
Having told his story to the federal investigators and the media, Landis sounded frustrated that the sport’s administrators had been unwilling to list. “I’m relatively sure this sport cannot be fixed. But that’s not my job, that’s not my fight.”
FLOYD LANDIS: LIFE AND TIMES
Born in Pennsylvania in 1975. He grew up as part of a Menonite family. As a teenager he began mountain biking. In 1999, he was spotted by John Wordin of the Mercury team and led the Tour de l’Avenir briefly before finishing third overall.
In 2002 he joined the US Postal Service team. The same year, he rode his first Tour de France, riding as a domestique for Armstrong, who wrapped up his fourth consecutive win. Landis finished 61st overall. In 2004, his results improved. He enjoyed a string of top 10 results, finished 23rd in the Tour and led the Vuelta for four days.
Those results attracted interest from other teams and Landis opted for Phonak, owned by the Swiss businessman Andy Rihs, who is now involved with BMC Racing. Landis was 11th overall at the Dauphiné Libéré and ninth in the Tour.
The 2006 season saw him take another step up and he was tipped to be one of the most likely riders to succeed the now retired Armstrong. Landis won the Tour of California, Paris-Nice and Tour of Georgia in the spring. Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, the pre-race favourites, were kicked out of the Tour before it started when the Operacion Puerto scandal broke. That made Landis one of the new favourites. He assumed the lead at Pla de Beret in the Pyrenees. He lost the yellow jersey to Oscar Pereiro when the Spaniard was part of a remarkable breakaway that gained 30 minutes on the road to Montelimar, partly because of the Phonak team’s inability to organise the chase.
Landis regained the yellow jersey at Alpe d’Huez but blew spectacularly the following day at La Toussuire, losing 10 minutes and the lead. The very next day he went on an astonishing attack, regaining eight of those minutes and setting up overall victory, which he clinched in the final time trial.
But on the Tuesday after the race, Landis pulled out of a criterium race in Holland, one that would have been extremely lucrative for the Tour winner. It raised suspicions, which were confirmed when it was revealed he’d failed a dope test.
Landis initially denied doping. When asked whether he had taken drugs he issued the unconvincing response: “I’ll say no.” Later he tried to blame the unusual testosterone ratio on the fact he’d drowned his sorrows after losing the yellow jersey, drinking some beers and Jack Daniels. However, it was revealed his system showed traces of synthetic testosterone.
A lengthy battle to clear his name failed. He was embroiled in an ugly blackmail incident with Greg LeMond, when a close friend of Landis’s threatened to reveal details of abuse LeMond had suffered as a child if he testified at a hearing into Landis’s doping.
Last year Landis finally admitted he had doped and made allegations against Armstrong and the US Postal team.