CyclingTips Podcast, Episode 10: Floyd Landis interview, Part 1

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After several years spent in a state of self-imposed exile, American Floyd Landis, the first rider to be stripped of a Tour de France title for doping, has reemerged. And this time around, he’s selling drugs.

Well, one drug, actually — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects.

Yes, Landis — born a Pennsylvania Mennonite, a mountain-biker transformed into a (short-lived) Tour de France champion, an admitted drugs cheat, and a key witness in a federal whistleblower lawsuit against Lance Armstrong — is now a drug dealer.

Landis isn’t conducting clandestine transactions on street corners, however. In the United States, marijuana is legal for recreational use, and sales, in four states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska — with California voters expected to approve legalization laws in November.

For the moment, Landis is doing business solely in Colorado, headquartered in the high-elevation town of Leadville — a mining town known in the cycling community for the annual Leadville 100 MTB Race, which Landis raced in 2007, finishing second to veteran mountain biker Dave Wiens.

His business, Floyd’s of Leadville, is not a marijuana retailer — there is no walk-in shop in Leadville — but rather a product line, selling high-end cannabis products, such as CO2-extracted hash oil and transdermal ointments, to state-approved marijuana dispensaries.

Landis’ path from Tour winner to the marijuana business can be traced to a hip fracture suffered in 2003 that resulted in osteonecrosis, or lack of blood circulation, which required hip-replacement surgery in 2006, following his Tour win. The injury ultimately led to an addiction to pain pills.

What’s followed has been well documented: Landis’ suspension; his return to racing, in 2009; his bombshell allegations over system doping at the U.S. Postal Service team, in May 2010, all ultimately proven true; Armstrong’s lifetime ban, in October 2012, and subsequent admission, in January 2013; the resultant, ongoing lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, against Armstrong, of which which Landis stands to collect up to 25% of any damages recouped — a figure that reportedly could amount to three times the sponsorship, or $100 million.

What was already a tale stranger than fiction took an unexpected turn when Landis announced, in June, that he was launching Floyd’s of Leadville, along with former U.S. Postal Service teammate Dave Zabriskie, who is also a witness in the federal lawsuit. A long time friend of Landis’, Zabriskie is a product tester and creative director for the marijuana business.

Along with several current and former WorldTour pros, Zabriskie was in Leadville earlier this month, racing the LT100, where he finished 33rd, in a time of 7:33:08. Landis was also there, promoting his new business; it was there that he bumped into CyclingTips podcast host Elden “Fat Cyclist” Nelson, and an interview was arranged, at Floyd’s of Leadville headquarters. (Riding on a singlespeed, alongside his wife Lisa, Fatty finished his 19th Leadville 100 in 404th place, in a time of 9:26:21; Lisa broke the previous women’s singlespeed record by 25 minutes.)

Today, Landis is in a long-term relationship, and has a two-year-old daughter. He’s a bit heavier than during his racing days; he doesn’t ride much, and when he does, it’s not on the road. He still deals with hip pain, but rather than managing it with prescription opioids, he uses his brand’s transdermal cream.

Floyd Landis, inspecting the product. Photo courtesy Floyd's of Leadville.
Floyd Landis, inspecting the product. Photo courtesy Floyd’s of Leadville.

“After my disqualification from the 2006 Tour de France and subsequent ban from professional cycling, I started to rely on opioids, not only for pain relief, but as a way to escape my depression,” Landis wrote in a testimonial on his brand’s website. “I had won the Tour de France, considered the pinnacle of sporting accomplishment, only to have it stripped from me. I was left to pick up the pieces of my life and try to redefine myself. I was no longer a professional athlete in one of the most popular sports in the world. I was now a disgraced former athlete with numerous lingering painful injuries, falling deeper into depression.”

More than anything, however, Landis says he’s no longer angry about the circumstances that saw him become pro cycling’s “persona non grata.” In a candid conversation — part 1 of a two-part interview — Landis said he’s learned to to find acceptance, and to issue apologies.

“As a resident of Colorado I discovered cannabis as a way to tailor my pain management and take control of my life,” Landis continued. “Soon I was no longer dependent on habit forming pills with their negative effects on my health. In fact there were many, positive effects from cannabis. I was pain-free and for the first time in a long time. I started to feel happy.”

Feuds — including an acimonious falling out with CyclingTips U.S. editor Neal Rogers over an August 2009 VeloNews story questioning his inability to regain form following his two-year suspension — are largely a thing of the past, Landis said.

As for his feud with Armstrong, that’s an ending that’s yet to be written — and a topic for the second half of this interview, coming soon.

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Video: Floyd Landis: Marijuana and the path to redemption, from Sports Illustrated

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