Floyd Landis was born into a Mennonite family on October 14, 1975 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and began riding bikes as a teenager. From 2002 to 2004, he rode with the U.S. Postal team. He teamed with Phonak, which led to a rivalry with Lance Armstrong. Landis won the Tour de France in 2006, but was later accused of using performance-enhancing drugs to win, when his urine samples tested positive for synthetic testosterone. He denied the claim, but was banned from cycling for two years. In 2010, Landis admitted to using banned substances, including testosterone. Soon after, he received fraud charges for deceiving hundreds of supporters, who had contributed nearly $1 million to a fund that Landis created in 2007, in an effort to battle his drug charges.
Early Cycling Career
Born on October 14, 1975 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Floyd Landis is the second oldest of six children in an observant Mennonite family. Landis began riding mountain bikes as a teenager. At age 20, he moved to California to race road bikes. A time-trial specialist and strong climber, Landis turned pro in 1999 with the Mercury Cycling Team.
From 2002 to 2004, Landis rode with the U.S. Postal team, helping teammate Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France each year. Landis then decided to team with Phonak instead of joining U.S. Postal's new incarnation as the Discovery Channel team. The move unwittingly started a feud with Armstrong; the two cyclists were even seen shouting at each other from their bikes during several stages of the 2005 Tour de France, which Armstrong won.
In 2006, Landis made an impressive show at the Tour de France, including a sensational ride in stage 17, when his solo breakaway over the French mountains beat the field by nearly six minutes. The win was particularly remarkable given that Landis was planning to have hip-replacement surgery later that year. After winning the prestigious Tour, however, Landis's urine tests revealed traces of synthetic testosterone—a banned performance-enhancing drug—and he was fired from Phonak.
In May 2007, Landis testified before a three-member panel, stating that he had not used banned drugs and citing incompetence within the French laboratory that had tested his urine. Landis ultimately lost his doping case and, subsequently, his Tour de France title.
On September 20, 2007, the American Arbitration Association upheld the results of Landis's earlier urine test, providing new test results showing that the American cyclist had used synthetic testosterone to fuel his spectacular comeback victory in 2006. He was also subject to a two-year ban, retroactive to January 30, 2007. The head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency later said in a statement that the ruling was "a victory for all clean athletes and everyone who values fair and honest competition." Landis, who steadfastly denied using performance-enhancing drugs, called the ruling "a blow to athletes and cyclists everywhere."
However, nearly four years later, in May 2010, Landis admitted to using banned drugs throughout his professional cycling career, including the 2006 Tour. According to the cyclist, he had used a variety of drugs to boost his performance, including testosterone, human growth hormone and erythropoietin (EPO), which increases the body's red blood cell count. He also admitted to conducting frequent blood transfusions, among other tactics, during his career.
Despite clearing his conscience in 2010, Landis's troubles were far from over. Not long after admitting his guilt in taking banned substances, he incurred a fresh round of litigation, this time for defrauding his fans: In fighting his drug charges, beginning in 2007, Landis had reportedly spent more than $2 million—most of which was raised through his "Fairness Fund," an effort aimed at defending Landis against the charges. Supporters who donated a minimum of $75 through the fund were reportedly offered thank-you notes signed by Landis; those who donated a minimum of $2,000 reportedly received signed yellow jerseys. Landis received fraud charges for deceiving hundreds of fans into contributing to the fund, which was based on the belief of his innocence.
On August 24, 2012, reaching an agreement with the U.S. attorney's office, Landis publicly agreed to repay nearly $500,000 of his "Fairness Fund" profits to donors. The agreement relies on that restitution amount as well as a three-year payback deadline, which, if not met, would likely lead to a wire fraud charge for Landis, and could ultimately mean a $250,000 fine and a prison sentence of up to 20 years for the former cyclist, if convicted.
According to an ABC News article, after making the deal with federal prosecutors, the 36-year-old Landis apologized to his supporters in a statement to reporters: "I can never undo what happened," he said. "I can never undo having lied to people but if, in some small way, making restitution helps them to forgive me, then that's a small step in the right direction."
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