Cycling: Armstrong fires back again at Landis
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Sports Writer
Floyd Landis ignored desperate pleas from his sponsor to avoid a public fight with Lance Armstrong, according to e-mails the seven-time Tour de France champion released in trying to prove the disgraced cyclist has "zero credibility."
Armstrong released the messages Friday in a second day of attacks on Landis, who accused cycling's biggest star of doping, teaching other riders to cheat and paying off a top cycling official after allegedly testing positive in 2002.
Armstrong has denied those allegations.
"Even a superficial review reveals a troubling, angry and misplaced effort at retribution by Landis for his perceived slights," said a statement posted on Armstrong's RadioShack team website. "While these types of repeated, tired and baseless accusations against Lance have been proven false in the past, it is quite regrettable, but telling, that so many in cycling are now attacked."
Landis did not respond to an e-mail from The Associated Press. His longtime sponsor, Dr. Brent Kay, also did not return a request for comment.
Perhaps the most telling exchange was a long e-mail from Kay, a cycling enthusiast and one of Landis' most ardent supporters, financially and otherwise. Kay has steadfastly said he believes Landis wasn't guilty of doping when he won cycling's most famous race in 2006.
Kay, while reaffirming to Landis that he would support him no matter what, asked him to call a truce with Armstrong and suggested he ride on the star's team.
"If either side does not like this idea just throw this in the trash and be done with it, have the press conference and get it over with. But, once again, I'm asking you to do this for me and my family so we can move on with our lives and leave all the anger, hatred and bitterness behind," Kay wrote in an April 28 e-mail to Landis that he forwarded to Armstrong on May 3.
Less than a month later, Landis went public with his e-mails, not only targeting Armstrong but Tour of California officials, too, for not inviting his team to participate in the race.
"I certainly understand that my revealing that Lance Armstrong has relied on blood doping, EPO, and anabolics to win the three Tours de France in which I helped him will jeopardize your substantial investment in facilitating his appearance so from a business point of view I understand fully," Landis wrote to Andrew Messick, the race director.
In his e-mail response, Messick said the accusation did not dignify a response, and reminded Landis that the California race welcomed him in 2009. Messick said he didn't believe Landis' current team could handle the challenge of an 800-mile stage race.
Messick said the back-and-forth with Landis begin on April 3, when Landis called and asked to have lunch. When the two met in Los Angeles, Landis shared the allegations he has since made public. Messick said he asked Landis if he really expected anyone to believe him.
After that meeting, Landis continued to e-mail him.
"Instead of them being on clearing his conscience, they were much more focused on the injustice of him or his team not being able to be part of the race," Messick said. "My observation was that I had a lunch with him in which he seemed lucid. Then I get wacky e-mails at night.
"I'm accustomed to teams saying we deserve to be part of this race. But this was a first, we never had someone try to do what he did. ... He recorded our first lunch. There was never a moment I didn't suspect he was going to leak all this stuff."
Kay also appealed to Messick about adding Landis' team to this year's Tour of California. And he reached out to Armstrong several times, asking him to take bike rides together and even offering the use of his homes around the Temecula, Calif., area.
He even told Landis that teaming up with Armstrong could work wonders for him financially.
"It's a simple straightforward idea and, if anything, selfish on my part," Kay wrote. "I want all these things to happen, I want you happy, I want Lance happy, I want cycling happy, I want to continue the fight against doping in sports, I want my kids to get the pleasure of seeing you and Lance together."
Instead, the divide between Landis and Armstrong only got wider.
Among the allegations Landis made in e-mails: he and Armstrong discussed using the blood-boosting EPO; he was asked to monitor the temperature of blood kept in a refrigerator inside Armstrong's apartment in the cycling hotbed of Girona, Spain, for use in transfusions; many other elite American riders, including Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie and Dave Zabriskie, were involved, as were USA Cycling officials.
"Armstrong's response to Landis was identical to the responses to the same type of threatening text messages received from Landis two years ago — there would be no consideration, money, team positions or anything else given in exchange for not airing false accusations," RadioShack's statement said.
"Getting no satisfaction and not receiving a position on the RadioShack team, Landis then carried through with his threat and provided the press with his false allegations. The public has taken them for what they are worth — absolutely nothing."