I’ve long considered myself delusional. I thrive in the pursuit of excellence, chasing my own standards of such. I love living in a slightly fantastical world where perhaps one day I might capture lightning in a bottle. It’s a healthy and necessary delusional state of mind. It keeps me rooted in a reality, or rather, the reality that is constantly pounding me in the face each and every time I race keeps me sane, focused. Grounded. But I wonder once in a while what my life would become—who I’d become—if I let those delusional falsities overcome my every day pursuits. I fear my personal life would crumble. I’d fall apart. I’d become a product of entropy, descending into whatever random particular mess that chaos demanded.
I’d become Floyd Landis.*
It would seem that at long last that his own invisible delusions have finally collided into the reality that the rest of the world has long been pointing at, screaming about, and trying in vain to help him grasp, or at the very least, acknowledge. But a True Believer—in any cause— will never see the Truth, no matter how plain or obvious or logical, if it conradicts that cause. And in the case of Floyd Landis, I always assumed that his cause was the absolute assertion of his own innocence. I wrote in 2007 that “Floyd Landis is either innocent, or horribly delusional. Either way though, his drawn out fight against USADA, WADA and public opinion was messy and ultimately achieved nothing.” And while in black and white terms, I think that was, and still is correct, I think it was an incomplete opinion. Today I’m not certain that proving his innocence was Floyd’s primary goal in waging his career, and reputation, ending war against the massive machine of professional cycling.
Today the picture, the tragedy, is more complete. His admission has taught us—after four years of fierce denial—why he spent everything he had fighting a pointless war. He has revealed why he was so adamant, so angry, and so insistent in that war. Not because he was innocent. No, he was never innocent. And not because he believed that doping was simply a way of life at that level of competition. No, I think he wallowed in a four-year tailspin of self-destruction because he felt completely and utterly betrayed.
*Not that I have his talent. But that I’d live in a self-destructive state of denial.
And who betrayed him? Whomever, or whatever, it was that was designed to protect his guilt. I think that Floyd Landis actually believed that he’d warrant the same international privilege commanded by his former mentor, friend, and teammate—Lance Armstrong. That “the system” would protect him, despite the fact that it was not protecting other high profile cycling stars. And so what can he do, but point a bitter and trembling finger at Lance, and condemn his perceived innocence, in the knowledge that his is a life, and a career, buoyed by the indestructible shield of public adoration. Surrounding Lance Armstrong is an intricate network of public relations experts, designated hitters, yes-men and—perhaps most importantly—a sympathetic press. Last night, just hours after this story broke, Bill Strickland and Johan Bruyneel, appeared on Larry King Live, prattling on about the instabilities of Floyd Landis and his “circus antics”. Which may all be true. Perhaps he is unstable, insane. He certainly does not have the credibility to lay any accusations at the feet of anyone, let alone the self-procalimed, media annointed King of Cycling–a sport that nobody pays any attention to anyway…
But one has to wonder what exactly it is that the press has to gain from protecting a certified megalomaniac who watched in public indifference as his own personal life, not unlike Floyd’s, fell victim to his own pursuit of the absurd and meaningless. Will, I wonder, any reporter overlook the validity of Floyd’s credibility and actually find out whether or not what he is saying is true?
I don’t feel any sympathy for either Floyd Landis or Lance Armstrong. Why should I? I’m one of the millions of people that they expected (and who Lance continues to expect) would believe their repeated lies. That they are clean and innocent. Victims. I have nothing more than contempt for either of them. Riders that I once openly cheered for, are now simply others in a long and growing list of deceitful, conceded narcissists. I won’t claim to be disenchanted. I was never enchanted to begin with. But I cheered, and hoped, and tried to will them to victory from afar. There was a solidarity with each of them, because I admired thier “narratives” and their ordinary beginnings. But now it would appear that whatever shred of dignity and humility they ever possessed was swallowed up in an insane appetite for self-aggrandizing glory. To borrow from one of my favorite writers:
Schadenfreude is an ugly word, as befits the ugly language that produced it, but I can’t apologize for being genuinely gleeful about [Floyd Landis’ self-destruction]. In fact, I’m not sure Schadenfreude even applies here, because, as I understand it, Schadenfreude is taking joy in another’s misfortune. Well, misfortune is another word for bad luck. And [what has happened with Landis] isn’t bad luck, it is a long-overdue comeuppance.
A comeuppance that will one day find and topple Lance himself. If indeed, these and other accusations are true.
We must acknowledge one of two things: Either Lance Armstrong is innocent, or he has in place a vast network of protection, designed to suppress, discredit, and misplace any damning evidence or test results. And while that would require a massive bank account, several willing accomplices, extremely loyal teammates, cutting edge doctors, and a press corp that is either kept in the dark, or negligent. And frankly, I believe the latter is much more plausible than the former. Is it any wonder that those closest to Lance Armstrong are those who have leveled the most interesting accusations? And how many former teammates have been suspended or banned? It simply is not rational that he remained clean, while his entire network of on-the-bike support cheated. And to what end did they cheat? For his glory only. And probably massive monetary bonuses.**
**And possibly a man-date with Matthew McConaughey
In the end, one can understand the anger, and the seemingly inexplicable and expensive fight that Floyd Landis has finally given up on. He has refused to go quietly like Roberto Heras, or Tyler Hamilton, or… everyone else. Floyd, unlike the others, rode into Yellow, and kept it all the way to Paris. If anything deserved the protection of the “network” that did. Especially so, after years of keeping quiet, riding for the exaltation and the honor of The Boss. A Tour title of his own would be a small price to pay for continued cooperation. Alas, apparently not. And now the press toes the party line, protecting Lance Armstrong® and the impeccable, charitable hero that he simply must be. No questions asked.
Once again I borrow from the above quoted writer:
[Lance Armstrong is] a geyser of asshattery, spewing his particular brand of aholuarness (to borrow a term from social science) with a regularity that would put Old Faithful to shame. And what Bart Simpson said of Old Faithful, I will say of [Lance Armstrong]: He both sucks and blows.
Exit Question: What on earth is aholuarness?