• Lance Armstrong (R) and and then teammate Floyd Landis at the 2004 Tour de France. (AAP)Source: AAP
Nearly eight years have passed since Floyd Landis filed a whistle-blower suit in US Federal court against former teammate Lance Armstrong.
Jane Aubrey

Cycling Central
23 Apr 2018 - 12:49 PM  UPDATED 23 Apr 2018 - 12:56 PM

Landis alleged that Armstrong, sports director Johan Bruyneel, financier Thomas Weisel, Armstrong’s agent Bill Stapleton, friend and business manager Bart Knaggs, along with other businesses associated with the seven-time Tour de France winner had defrauded the federal government. That US Postal Service funds were used to run what became known as “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen.”

Lance Armstrong settles U.S. federal fraud case
Lance Armstrong will pay $US5 million to settle a federal suit claiming he defrauded his sponsor, the US Postal Service, by using performance-enhancing drugs.

The suit came a few months, the anniversary of which will be on April 30, after Landis sent an email to then-CEO of USA Cycling, Steve Johnson, detailing allegations of doping in professional cycling that went back to 2002. It set off a domino effect of destruction and truths that would end careers, strip titles, and lifted the veil on the sport like never before – cycling was indeed corrupt, top to bottom.

Landis had been disgraced, and as part of his resurrection, it appeared as though the unlikely cycling star was willing to bring everyone down with him. Landis was a wrecking ball, and he would take no prisoners.

While the United States Anti-Doping Agency could re-write the history books containing Armstrong’s wins and ban the Texan from sports that were signatories to the WADA code for life, it seemed to many that the federal suit would be what indeed put the boot into Armstrong.

At stake was US$120million of Armstrong’s fortune and Landis, having filed the lawsuit, stood to collect up to 25 per cent of the windfall.

“I mean, the whistle-blower case is a $100 million case. If I lost, we would not be sitting at this table anymore," Armstrong told journalists in 2015.

Over time, Armstrong’s contrition has grown from the arrogant narcissism that was on show for the world to see back in his ‘tell-all’ interview with Oprah in 2013.

Armstrong admitted that he was "a complete dick for a long time" – he was sorry for the fans who had been let down and the cancer patients who benefitted via his Livestrong fund, but for being part of a larger, well-oiled machine of cover-ups and corruption, he was not. Landis too was worn down after years of being one of cycling’s greatest punching bags – criticised for his actions by the peloton and the establishment.

Recently, Landis told The Atlantic that: “I don’t care about the money. I don’t care if I get anything out of it.”

It’s now been confirmed that Landis will get US$1.1million of the $5million that Armstrong will pay the US government in settling the whistle-blower suit. Additionally, Landis will receive $1.65million towards his legal bills.

Slowly, with lawsuits bubbling away in the background, Armstrong has worked his way back into today’s cycling narrative via his podcast series.

As a journalist, Armstrong could make you want to go on the attack and question his credibility, such was his arrogance, especially in his comeback years. He would at first wander up to you in mock surprise that you were there and want to talk to him before castigating you for asking his response for the latest hint that something might not be quite right.

In the space of 24 hours, he would reduce you to tears, not with words against you, but in his interaction with sick kids in a cancer ward. Make no mistake, what you hear on the podcast, his insight into the human condition is the same Armstrong who could get under your skin all those years ago. The savagery has distilled, but the cunning has not, and it’s made for entertaining listening.

At the same time, this resurrection has rankled some. It can be hard not to be poisoned by something that makes you question everything you see in a sport as beautiful as cycling. Perhaps this is why so many people are as angry as Armstrong as they are. Sure, Armstrong’s now infamous, “I'm sorry that you can't dream big. I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles,” speech probably doesn’t help matters, but at some point, we all have to move on.

Humanity’s sense of fairness has evolved, and it has close ties to cultural values – for this reason, we have differing views on whether Armstrong’s $5million settlement is just or whether Landis is a ‘winner’ in all of this long-running mess. Our need to ask questions is also a part of this evolution and learning – there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s how we become better as a society. As humans, we both seek to level the playing field and exploit it, and one need only look to some of the queries hanging over the career of Chris Froome for that.

What is certain is that the events of the last two decades, along with the actions of Armstrong, Landis and those around and above them, have created a better future for the sport. Never again, will the sport descend to the depths these characters mired us all in. We know better now, and the wheels keep turning.