'Pathetic' and ill-timed

ALISON KORN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Did Floyd Landis just want some attention, again?

The disgraced U.S. cyclist who lost his 2006 Tour de France title after failing a doping test -- and then wrote a book insisting he was clean -- has admitted for the first time that he was guilty.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Landis recently sent a series of e-mails to sponsors and officials detailing his use of steroid patches, blood doping and human growth hormone -- and also implicating coaches and fellow cyclists, including Lance Armstrong.

"I want to clear my conscience. I don't want to be part of the problem anymore," Landis told ESPN.com."

With the international cycling season in full swing, Landis had mostly faded out of the picture, until now. He still competes, but on a lower level, small-budget team for the Bahati Foundation, riding mostly by himself with no support staff around. His team isn't strong enough to be invited to the big races.

"He's racing like an amateur," veteran Montreal coach Pierre Hutsebaut said. "Going to the race himself and pumping his tires. I really don't see the rationale behind this (announcement) and I don't see the game plan.

"As an athlete he's not performing like he was performing five years ago. He's just one of the riders in the group."

Hutsebaut, a former national coach who used to head the Canadian Cycling Association, saw Landis racing about a month ago in New York state. His reaction to Landis' statements?

"Pathetic," Hutsebaut said. "I would not have been surprised if he had said this a few months after he got caught, as a part of his defence, but he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in his defence and now he's coming with something irrational. I don't believe it."

The International Cycling Union rejected Landis' accusations yesterday, in particular the claim that a positive doping result by Armstrong during the 2002 Tour of Switzerland was concealed after an agreement was reached between Armstrong, his coach and the former UCI president, Hein Verbruggen.

"The UCI can only express its outrage at this new attempt to harm the image of cycling," its statement said.

TIGHTENED

Anti-doping has tightened up since Landis' prime. A "biological passport" introduced last year tracks the blood profiles over time of all professional cyclists and flags any suspicious variations. Earlier this month, top Italian cyclist Franco Pellizotti was banned from the Giro d'Italia race for irregular blood levels.

Cyclists must also complete an online course -- "True Champion or Cheat?" -- so nobody can claim ignorance. It has eight modules on topics including rules, consequences and supplements. Nothing too onerous, mind you.

"We're not talking a university type course," said Jacques Landry, chief technical officer for the Canadian Cycling Association. "It took me an hour and a half to cover. It's very informative for athletes and also acknowledging that you agree with the process and the systems the UCI and IOC have put in place."

As discussion of Landis' accusations rages online, top cyclists continue to pump out the miles. Canadian pro Michael Barry is racing the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of California this week has already seen four top-10 finishes by Canadian riders, with the new Canadian-based UCI Continental cycling team directed by cycling legend Steve Bauer.

"I don't really have much to say about what Floyd's saying," said Bauer. "I've got a lot to say about the team."

That's the shame in all this -- negative attention to the sport when the next generation, we are told, is en route to winning cleanly. Is that even possible?

Hutsebaut paused a second before answering: "Yes."

ALISON_KORN@HOTMAIL.COM


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