Along with today's confession, Floyd Landis accused several other prominent riders, including Lance Armstrong, of doping. And Armstrong's defenders immediately jumped in with their usual refrain; reminding us that Lance has never tested positive. Unfortunately, in a world where doping and masking techniques are a step ahead of detection methods, the lack of a positive does not make for a negative.
As Exhibit A of that statement, I present Marion Jones. In the photo at the left, Ms. Jones - who never once failed a drug test, and who has now admitted to using performance enhancing drugs - is shown in the 100-meter dash, winning by the largest margin in the Olympics in decades. Two of the women way back in her rear view mirror - Ekaterina Thanou and Merlene Ottey - are known drug cheats. At the time, I pointed out that it seemed rather implausible for dirty, world class athletes to be dominated by a clean one. Still, with quotes like I AM AGAINST PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING DRUGS. I HAVE NEVER TAKEN THEM AND I NEVER WILL TAKE THEM [caps from her autobiography], perhaps you believed her despite the pile of circumstantial evidence including her performances and the fact that she was surrounded by known cheaters. But now it's obvious that she was a liar, and that negative tests mean nothing.
Personally, I never believed Landis. And my disdain for him grew when he whined about getting busted, and suckered cyclists all over into donating to his legal fund. None of that means that he's lying now. People want to believe that Lance is clean. I want to believe that Lance is clean. Because he is American, he is a cancer survivor, he has done tremendous charitable work, and because we want to think that the sport still has some clean riders. In my heart of hearts, I hope so. Maybe Lance, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie and the others mentioned by Landis are clean. But simply calling Landis a rat (as so many already have) is obfuscating the real problem, and pointing to a multitude of negative tests is meaningless.