The sum of money Lance Armstrong still owes the federal government still must pass through a few more sets of hands.
Federal prosecutors say Armstrong defrauded the U.S. Postal Service, his team’s sponsor during the prime of his career, by competing while taking steroids. Floyd Landis, Armstrong’s former teammate, is the government’s key witness in the case.
Shortly after Landis won the 2006 Tour de France, he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. He was subsequently suspended from professional cycling and his title was vacated. He spoke out against Armstrong in 2010, becoming one of the main whistleblowers to bring him down.
Armstrong agreed in April to pay the government $5 million to settle his case with the Postal Service, and $1.1 million of that payment will go to Landis for cooperating with prosecutors.
Landis will use whatever is left over after legal fees, about $750,000, he told the Wall Street Journal, to start a North American developmental cycling team named for his marijuana dispensary.
“Maybe it sounds odd, but it’s kind of some closure for me,” Landis, 43, told the Journal.
“I have a conflicted relationship with cycling, as everybody knows, but I still like it,” he added. “And I still remember what it was like to be a kid, and race on a domestic team. It was some of the best years of my life.”
His team, Floyd’s of Leadville Pro Cycling, which shares a name with his dispensary, will compete in the continental circuit, the third tier of professional road cycling. The Colorado-based dispensary will contribute capital funds to the Canada-based team.
"I have a long history with USA Cycling, and I’d just assume I’d start with a clean slate,” he said.
Landis still has a controversial reputation in international cycling. Born into a strict Mennonite household in Pennsylvania, his family discouraged his desire to race and instead assigned him extra chores so he could not train. Instead, he practiced surreptitiously at night, sneaking out and riding his bike for miles until his blossomed into a professional-grade talent, according to an Outside magazine profile.
As a young pro, he was one of Armstrong’s earliest support riders and friends on the Postal Service team, but struck out on his own in 2004 to be the star of Swiss team Phonak. By the 2005 season, he and Armstrong shouted insults at one another during races.
Armstrong, then riding for the Discovery Channel team, had riders take up defensive positions to keep Landis from winning a race even if it hurt Discovery’s own times.
The two made amends after Armstrong retired in 2005, but the relationship soured again when Landis began cooperating with federal investigators in 2010.
“Obviously, [Lance] is not a fan of mine,” Landis told the Journal. He said his new cycling team “doesn’t have anything to do with me trying to spite him, or anything like that. It’s just for my own sake.”
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