Cyclist Landis Admits Doping, Accuses Armstrong

NPR's Tom Goldman talks to Robert Siegel about American cyclist Floyd Landis, who has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. Landis says Lance Armstrong has, too, though Armstrong has denied the allegation.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Once again, the world of elite bicycle racing is under the dark cloud of doping. American cyclist Floyd Landis has admitted taking banned performance enhancing drugs during his career. And he has accused a number of cyclists of doing the same, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Landis won the tour back in 2006, but then had the titled stripped from him because of a positive drug test. He then launched a lengthy public campaign proclaiming his innocence.

Well, joining us now is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. And, Tom, how did this news come out and what did Floyd Landis say?

TOM GOLDMAN: It came out in a number of emails that Floyd Landis recently sent to cycling officials, anti-doping officials, cycling sponsors. And he admitted his own banned drug use beginning in 2002. Interestingly, Robert, he told ESPN.com, I don't feel guilty at all about having doped. He said: I did what I did because that's what cyclists did, and that was a choice I made.

But on the other hand, he also said he wants to clear his conscience and he doesn't want to be part of the problem anymore, a problem Landis claims that involved other cyclists, team officials, officials from cycling's governing bodies.

SIEGEL: And Lance Armstrong, which is big headline news because Lance Armstrong has fame transcends cycling. What exactly does Landis say about Armstrong?

GOLDMAN: He says he got EPO, a banned substance that boosts red blood cells and thus the oxygen carrying capacity in blood. He says he got that directly from Armstrong. He also said that Armstrong helped him understand the way banned substances work, that they discussed the effectiveness of a new test for EPO back in the early 2000s. And he says Armstrong and the longtime coach Johan Bruyneel paid officials with cycling's international governing body, that's the UCI, to cover up a test in 2002 after Armstrong allegedly tested positive for EPO. The UCI denied changing or concealing a positive test result.

SIEGEL: And Lance Armstrongs response to these allegations?

GOLDMAN: He responded today very forcefully. He held an impromptu press conference outside his team bus at the Tour of California race where he was competing. Armstrong blasted Landis, said we've got nothing to hide. And in his criticism of Landis, Armstrong zeroed in on Landis' doping suspension in 2006 and Landis' extensive campaign to exonerate himself that was done with the help of public donations. And here's what Armstrong said.

Mr. LANCE ARMSTRONG (Pro Cyclist): You had somebody that's been under oath several times with a completely different version. You have somebody that's written a book with a completely different version. You have somebody that took people's money for their defense someone said a million dollars - with a completely different version. He says he has nothing. He's got no proof. It's his word versus ours. We like our work. We like where we stand. We like our credibility.

GOLDMAN: Now, Robert, adding injury to insult, literally, after he made those comments about Landis, Armstrong crashed during the fifth stage of the Tour of California. He reportedly needed stitches in his elbow and under his eye and hes out of the race.

SIEGEL: Well, Armstrong does have one point in his favor and that is that Landis made very, very strenuous denials of precisely what hes admitting to here today.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, very much so. Everyone well, a lot of people might remember the Floyd Fairness Fund, where he poured a couple of million dollars into his defense. So, yes, this is a relatively easy one for Armstrong to deflect. Landis acknowledges some will have a hard time believing him. But Armstrong critics say there are other people whose credibility is not in question like Landis' whove made pretty well-documented allegations over the years, and Armstrong has denied those as well.

SIEGEL: Okay. Thank you, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: Thats NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

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