Of the $5 million that Lance Armstrong agreed to pay the federal government in April to settle a protracted legal battle, $1.1 million went to Armstrong’s former teammate Floyd Landis for his service as a whistleblower. Landis, who famously turned on Armstrong in 2010, told the Wall Street Journal today that he will use the $750,000 or so he has left after legal fees to start a pro cycling team, which will feature Landis’s cannabis company as its title sponsor.
Floyd’s of Leadville Pro Cycling Team will compete on the continental circuit, the third division of pro road cycling, and the team will inherit several riders from the soon-to-be defunct Canadian continental outfit Silber Pro. Landis told the Journal’s Jason Gay that he never wanted to keep the settlement money for himself, and that even though he has a “conflicted relationship with cycling, as everybody knows,” starting a team where young riders can make a name for themselves was an opportunity for closure. He said his new team will target American riders, though it will be registered in Canada because of Landis’s “history” with USA Cycling.
It’s that history that makes this announcement a surprising one. A few days after Landis won the 2006 Tour de France, he tested positive for testosterone. Landis fought the result for years, even crowdfunding for his legal defense, before he folded, blew the lid off the Armstrong doping program, and filed the aforementioned lawsuit against Armstrong. Landis paid more than $2 million in legal fees while trying in vain to clear his name, and he made himself a pariah for repeatedly lying about doping.
The cycling world is still not yet sure how to deal with former dopers, especially those who had critical roles in the sport’s most infamous doping scandal of all time. Landis knows he’s a controversial figure, but he also correctly pointed out that American cycling needs all the help it can get.
“They can put me in the same bracket as everyone else they want to go away, but at the end of the day, rather than yelling and screaming on the internet about how I should go away, they could go out and find some other sponsors to help them promote the sport,” he said.
“Those people are going to continue to talk like that, and that’s just who they are.”
Landis told Gay that his new team has “doesn’t have anything to do with me trying to spite [Armstrong],” and that it’s all about trying to move on. That sounds about right. Since Armstrong had to pay up for his crimes against cycling, a third-tier North American cycling team seems like one of the more cosmically just destinations for his cash to end up at.