VISALIA, CA (BRAIN)—"I have nothing to hide."
This was Lance Armstrong's response to Floyd Landis' charge that the seven-time Tour de France champion had doped. Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title after failing a drug test, admitted Wednesday to ESPN.com's Bonnie D. Ford that he had used performance-enhancing drugs for most of his career as a professional road cyclist, according to ESPN. He also claimed that Armstrong and his longtime coach Bruyneel paid an International Cycling Union official to cover up a test in 2002 after Armstrong purportedly tested positive for the blood-boosting drug EPO, according to ESPN.
ESPN and other media outlets obtained e-mails sent by Landis to cycling and anti-doping officials over the past few weeks, implicating dozens of other athletes, including Armstrong, team management and owners, and officials of the sport's national and international governing bodies, according to the network.
"It started a couple of years ago as texts and I wrote him back after a while," Armstrong said at a news conference before yesterday's Tour of California stage 5. "Johan can speak more about what he [Landis] wanted from the team but after a few of them they got to be so annoying that I wrote him back and said, ‘Floyd leave me alone. Do what you have to do, I’m going to be fine, don’t worry about me but you have to stop texting me, annoying me, you have to stop harassing me.’"
Armstrong said all the e-mails will eventually come to light. "The e-mails to myself will come out," Armstrong said. "All of the e-mails to [AEG Sports president] Andrew Messick will come out, to John Burke [president] from Trek. For someone that says he is here to clear his conscience, why are you sending e-mails to other people’s sponsors, other people’s partners, to the organizer of a race, to the sponsors of a race?"
Armstrong called the timing of Landis' proclamation suspect. "I think the timing of the race is obvious," Armstrong said. "As I mentioned, he didn’t get in the race. To be honest, I was surprised that it didn’t come up in Sacramento. We were all fully expecting it to come out then. These e-mails have been out for quite some time. We were fully expecting this then."
Bruyneel also spoke to the press before yesterday's stage 5, denying all of Landis' allegations. "I will reiterate a little more what Lance said," Bruyneel said. "It’s not a surprise to us, we’ve been expecting this for a long time. Floyd started contacting us, me in particular, four years ago, almost as soon as he tested positive. He threatened, blackmail, whatever you want to call it, asking for certain things, asking for a job when he was able to race again. Obviously we did not respond to that request. From there on it’s been a constant roller coaster in that Floyd has changed his story too many times. He’s been saying something for four years. I’ve seen him on TV and in court. He wrote a book, set up a fund once he found out a legal defense is very expensive. All of a sudden this changes. He’s pointing at me, he’s pointing at Lance but he’s pointing to all the people that are still there."
Bruyneel called Landis a "bitter" person. "To me Floyd has always been an angry person, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad," Bruyneel said. "Sometimes he used anger in a race to motivate himself. But really he’s angry with the world. To me it sounds like he wants to drag down people that are still here and he’s enjoying this. There’s not so much else I can say about this. Except to say it’s another fact in a long line of things that happened in the past and coming from Floyd it’s no surprise."
Armstrong was forced to withdrawl from the Tour of California after a crash yesterday.
"If I walk away with one word to sum this all up—credibility," Armstrong said. "Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago."