If I'm Loren Mooney, I punch Floyd Landis in the teeth.
I invite him to my New York City office, offer up a seat and a nice cup of Earl Grey, make sure he's comfortable -- then grab the nearest Huffy and throw it at him.
If I'm Mooney, I paint Landis bright red and throw him in a pen with the world's 200 angriest bulls. I coat his feet and hands in Cheez Whiz and introduce him to the rats in Central Park. I borrow the most dangerous platform boots I can find and perform the Paul Stanley three step atop his pelvis.
Then I do it all again.
Three years ago, shortly before she became the editor of Bicycling Magazine, Mooney agreed to co-author Landis' autobiography, Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France. At the time, this was a major coup. The 2006 Tour de France champion, Landis had been stripped of his crown after being accused of using banned performance-enhancing drugs. He repeatedly swore that he was clean, and Mooney -- my former colleague at Sports Illustrated in the late 1990s and a truly decent person -- was the lucky one asked to chronicle the drama. She spent the ensuing three months jotting down Landis' thoughts (mainly via phone, but also in person) and came to like the cyclist for his openness and droll sense of humor.
Because she is kind and whole and uncommonly forgiving, Mooney wishes no ill upon Landis. Having written several books myself, I know what goes into the process -- the agony, the self-mutilation, the hours upon hours of transcribing tapes and digging through old clips and tracking down friends and family members and teammates. It is a true burden; bushels of time that Mooney will never, ever have back.
Hence, it must be asked, how can someone like Landis -- or Barry Bonds,or Mark McGwire, or Marion Jones, or Shawne Marriman, or Brian Cushing, or Shane Mosley, or eight thousand other athletes continue to peddle lies? What sort of warped person must Floyd Landis be to have sat across from Mooney, looked her in the eye and uttered one mistruth after another? Declaring his innocence wasn't merely a section of Positively False -- it was the very point of the 320-page book. Landis went out of his way to do this. Reads the cover jacket: "Landis went from winning the most prestigious race of his career to being unfairly labeled as a cheater, a liar, and a doper."
Uh ... yeah.
The sad truth is, we reside in a world of warped athletic justifications. The dad has his 5-year-old taking BP for six hours per day, "because college is expensive, and we need a scholarship." The basketball player grabs an opponent's wrist while trying to get a rebound "because the ref can't see it -- and if I'm not caught, it's not cheating." The soccer player pops greenies "because I just need a quick pick up, and it's not illegal in Ecuador" and the baseball player uses steroids and HGH "because I keep getting hurt, and I want help staying on the field."
Without question, as he sat down with Mooney, giving his side of the story, Landis possessed a justification of his own. Maybe he used because everyone else did. Maybe he used because he was injured. Maybe he used because he had a tough childhood. Maybe he used because some obscure biblical passage says it's OK.
Whatever the case, Landis lied. He lied to himself, he lied to his fans, he lied to his sport.
And he lied to Loren Mooney.