The Week in Ethics: Floyd Landis’ Guilty Conscience

Floyd Landis told ESPN he wants to clear his conscience, that his dishonesty has been eating him alive from the inside.

I am reminded of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The narrator of Poe’s gothic tale, insists to the reader that he/she is sane, murders and dismembers an old man, and buries the body parts under the floor boards.

When police come, investigating reports of screams, the narrator daringly pulls chairs over the floor where the old man is buried and invites the officers to sit. The narrator convinces the officers that nothing is amiss. However, increasingly distracted by the sound of a beating heart under the floor growing louder and louder, the narrator blurts out a confession.

So what is the motive now for Landis’ Tell-Tale Heart confession of using illegal drugs?

He has for the last four years portrayed the role of a man wrongly stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for doping violations.  He appealed to fans to give money to the Floyd Fairness Fund to defray legal bills in his fight for “justice”.

Now, he admits he is guilty of taking illegal drugs — but still says he is innocent of taking drugs during the 2006 Tour de France. (Is he making that distinction because it is true? Or to try and protect himself against potential criminal accusations that he raised money on fraudulent pretenses?)

Landis is professing to be a casualty of a doping culture in cycling. It is a culture he says he wants to bring down so young athletes won’t be confronted with the same choices he had.

His strategy is to accuse Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer and David Zabriskie of having taken illegal drugs as well. The proof? Apparently his word against theirs.

Just as in Poe’s story, we see someone disintegrating before our eyes. Landis can’t credibly fight for any cause right now because he is an admitted liar, without credibility or a reason to be trusted. There is no noble work for him to do now to reform cycling’s culture. Whatever needs to happen to restore integrity to the sport of cycling, Landis forfeited the right to be a player.

It is a Neverland mission if Landis believes he can protect others from “choices” he faced. In any sport, any business, we are always confronted with choices between right and wrong. We are defined by what we choose.

When the media attention dies down, and the floor boards reveal whatever they reveal for cycling, Landis’ story will remain a cautionary tale of wanting to win so badly that he betrayed himself and the sport he loves. It is about wanting that mountain-top moment any way he could get it, losing integrity, trust, and a sense of right and wrong in the process. It is a gothic tale all right, one that too many athletes and Wall Street warriors know far too well.

Gael O’Brien,   May 20, 2010

The Week in Ethics

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3 Comments on “The Week in Ethics: Floyd Landis’ Guilty Conscience”

  1. Jane Roeder Says:

    Excellent article, Gael. Sadly, Floyd Landis’ true story is scarier than Edgar Allan Poe’s fictional tale.


  2. Remember the old Perry Mason show when one of his witnesses would recant earlier testimony and confess? And Hamilton Burger, the D.A., would jump to his feet and cry, “Were you lying then? Or are you lying now?” Floyd Landis, you flunked your Perry Mason audition.

  3. Dindo S. Guillermo Says:

    First point I want to raise here is the whistle-blowing case filed by Floyd Landis against his former teammate Lance Armstrong. What makes this case such a high-profile case?
    Cycling is a sport that involves team play. Aside from the fact that an individual’s iron legs and stamina is needed to win an event. It involves millions of dollars in sponsorship alone. Set aside the funding made by big time corporations. Tour de France is probably one of the toughest and prestigious cycling race event there is, let alone the money and people involved. It tests an individual will to win and the training he had prior the event. It also spectacles the cyclist character and the motivation to be claimed one of the greatest.
    What made Floyd blow the whistle? What could possibly force him to blow the whistle for Lance’s doping practices? Floyd was stripped of his Tour de France title in 2006 due to performance enhancing drugs. He may have thought of Lance using the banned substance and got away with the title 7 times. He and Lance has been teammates so he witnessed the actions made by Lance in taking the banned substances. Floyd was forced to whistle blow due to the conspiracies within the team

    about banned substances – the use of female hormones, insulin, EPO, steroids and synthetic blood booster (Macur & Schmidt, 2010).
    In the situation where Floyd to decide if he will blow the whistle, what could he possibly gain? Is it unethical from him to do so by means of external whistle-blowing? From an interview he had with ESPN.com, he mentioned that money is a large part of it (ESPN, 2007). Floyd may have lost millions in earnings and sponsorship. Add to it the legal defence which cost him US $2M ‘fighting the charges against him’ (Macur…). And what if he just remained quiet, this would only mean “the continuance of any fraudulent activity that is occurring” (The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, 2013, p.18). Floyd’s decision to divulge the practices by his team hurts the sports of cycling, as well as the organisation and the sporting industry as a whole. Has Floyd been disloyal to his team? No. An ideally virtuous person will eliminate continuity of wrong practice for fair play and for the benefit of his family. With the whistle-blowing case raised by Floyd, the likelihood that Lance have to pay the millions of earnings to settle the lawsuit is highly seen, considering that the US Justice Department is joining the case and Lance’s chances of being acquitted is far from reality .
    The second point here are the doping and drug testing issues. Accusations of doping, drugs and other forms for performance enhancing drugs has been hurdled to Lance Armstrong. Initially, I do not believe with such. But at the back of my mind, I was thinking that the medicines he took while battling the dreaded C has a role to play in his enormous strength. He “angrily denied” allegations that he used performance enhancing drugs (The New York Times, 2006, para. 1). He denied this tens, if not hundreds of times.
    From the transcript of Lance interview with Oprah Winfrey, everyone now knows that Lance used “banned substances or blood dope” in all his seven victories in Tour de France (The Telegraph Sport, 2013). Now, what would be left of Lance Armstrong? According to ESPN (2013, para. 2), he is “banned for life from competing in sporting events governed by the World Anti-Doping Agency”. So, why can’t law makers create a law that will just legalize the use of these banned substances? Is doping really such a crime? In the spirit of fair play, we must allow our natural ability to do things in order to excel and compete as human without the intervention of other factors. Using banned substances and other performance enhancing drugs would only ridicule our culture and the competition will be set on the playing field of ‘who creates the best drugs’. The use of these substances will only mean that a person is cheating and violates the basic rules of fair play. Nobody would want to watch ‘cheaters’ at play.
    Lastly, with professional integrity, how will Lance face up his critics who first raise his dependency of performance enhancing drugs in all of his winnings? How can someone own fame, prestige and richness that you know you cheated? I have been a sports fanatic and have followed most of it including cycling. I grew up hearing the name of Greg LeMond and other cycling greats. LeMond being a three-time winner of Tour de France is known as disciplined, a team player and an anti-doping advocate. He has been an epitome of greatness that shows his integrity as an athlete. Lance Armstrong’s success has been one of the stories I really followed to. It simply amazed me on how a cancer patient at his 20’s overcame the dreaded disease, ventured into an endurance sport and succeeded by ‘winning 7 times’ in the toughest competition of cycling in Tour de France and lived his life to the fullest. But with Lance cheating and lying about doping accusations, how would people remember him now? Where will the lustre and prestige of winning 7 times go from now?
    For the beneficiaries of Livestrong Foundation, how would one explain that the money used that helped them in their medical bills came from cheating? Cheating to save many people is definitely

    not an action that is morally acceptable. We expect someone who help people to be a person of integrity to be honest, fair and trustworthy. He defies the rules of professional integrity as a whole. It was also such a disgrace for their team for breach of their contract from their sponsors with regards to fair play and the image being portray by the company they are endorsing.


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