As the wheel turns: Landis adds to cycling soap opera

The Kickoff

July 28, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

When word leaked two days ago that one of the top riders in the Tour de France had tested positive for some form of illegal performance enhancement, the first name that popped into my mind was Floyd Landis.

It wasn't that I had any special knowledge of the tawdry inner workings of big-time international cycling. I just remembered how he had miraculously overcome a seemingly insurmountable time deficit in Stage 17 ... and, of course, we now live in an age when the natural reaction to any extraordinary athletic performance is to assume that whoever achieved it probably has spent some time in the same bathroom stall as Jose Canseco.

Turns out Landis was found to have an elevated level of testosterone after Stage 17, and he has been suspended pending the results of a backup test. I'd just like to go on record as saying that I would give anything to have an elevated level of testosterone, but I guess that isn't considered a good thing when you're making up eight minutes on the final mountain stage of the Tour de France. Here's hoping that the retest confirms Landis' contention that he didn't do anything more than accept a completely innocent looking vial of vitamin B-12 from one of the Dominican riders.

I'm sure this came as a complete shock to the dozens of international cycling fans who still believe the sport does not have a serious drug problem, but it's hard to be surprised by anything after the doping scandal that prompted the disqualification of nine riders before the race even began.

This is nothing new. The Tour was rocked by a similar scandal in 1998 when the Festina team was disqualified during the race for using performance-enhancing drugs, and Lance Armstrong was the target of doping rumors throughout his seven-year domination of the event.

Frankly, I think you'd have to be on drugs to even consider riding a bicycle dressed like that, but cycling has been working hard to clean up its act. Perhaps the pending disqualification of the 2006 winner will be a giant step in that direction, but I'm guessing that this sport will be hampered by cheaters as long as there are still people who hunger to wear yellow Spandex.

The Landis revelation came just four days before the first anniversary of the announcement that Orioles star Rafael Palmeiro had tested positive for the banned steroid stanozolol. There is no connection between the two events, but former Sen. George Mitchell will probably interview a few hundred cyclists just to make sure.

The Ravens reported to Westminster yesterday and will go through their first workout today at McDaniel College amid expectations that they will improve significantly on last year's 6-10 performance.

"We're excited," said veteran guard Edwin Mulitalo. "It's been a long, anxious offseason. That's what happens when you come off a season where your expectations are not met. On paper, it looks great, but that's what camp is for, learning to work as a team."

Chris McAlister came prepared for a lengthy stay in Westminster, wheeling a large plasma television and his video game setup through the lobby of the Best Western hotel that serves as the team's headquarters for three weeks.

New quarterback Steve McNair didn't bring any entertainment equipment with him. He's got a complex offense to learn in a relatively short time, and he can't do it playing Madden 2006.

"I will be spending most of my time with my playbook," he said.

If there was any doubt about the likelihood that Barry Bonds will eventually be indicted for perjury or tax evasion, it disappeared yesterday when a new grand jury wasted no time summoning personal trainer Greg Anderson to testify against his boyhood pal and BALCO client. Anderson apparently refused again, which could mean another stay in prison for failing to cooperate with the investigation, but it seems fairly obvious that the grand jury is getting ready to hand down an indictment with or without his help.

This week's funny sports headline comes from The Onion, the satirical news site on the Web: PNC Park threatens to leave Pittsburgh unless better team is built.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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