Sports

Floyd Landis Was Too Numbed by Doping Allegations to Deal With His Best Friend’s Suicide

Floyd Landis thought he reached the pinnacle of his career in 2006 by becoming one of the world’s top cycling athletes. The high from his Tour de France victory came crashing down as doping allegations immediately surfaced. It only got worse from there. Just weeks after the 2006 Tour de France, Landis’ best friend, who was also his father-in-law, died by suicide.

The cycling career of Floyd Landis

RELATED: How Exactly Did Lance Armstrong Cheat?

Floyd Landis grew up loving to ride his bike. That love for cycling evolved into racing and then became a career. As a child, Landis sneaked out late to ride and his passion for the sport eventually paid off. Landis won the first-ever mountain bike race he entered and was hooked.

Legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong eventually recruited Landis to ride alongside him during his 2002 and 2004 Tour de France victories. Landis left Armstrong and the US Postal Service team to race for Phonak. In 2006, Landis was thought to have won the Tour de France, but on July 27, 2006, the Phonak Cycling Team announced there was a problem with a urine sample of Landis’.

The sample showed an extraordinarily high ratio of the hormone testosterone to the hormone epitestosterone. The maximum ratio is 4:1, but Landis’ was 11:1. Landis’ backup sample also was positive and Landis was dismissed from his Phonak team. Second-place finisher Oscar Pereiro was crowned the winner.

Landis initially denied the doping claim

In 2007, Floyd Landis was found guilty of doping and was banned from the sport for two years. When his ban ended in 2009, Landis returned to cycling with the OUCH Pro Cycling Team, a team that raced in the U.S. After one year, he left and wanted to race in the more challenging stages in Europe.

In 2010, after years of denying the doping charge, The Wall Street Journal reported Landis had sent off emails to cycling officials admitting to the charge. According to the account, he admitted to doping from June 2002 through the 2006 Tour de France.

It was also during this time that Landis threw Lance Armstrong under the bus. Landis, according to Cyclingnews.com, claimed in an e-mail that Armstrong had told him (teammate Johan) Bruyneel met with the International Cycling Union to ensure details of a positive Armstrong test remained confidential due to a “financial agreement.”

Landis’ best friend dies by suicide in 2006

Just weeks after the 2006 Tour de France and the doping charge, Floyd Landis was hit with another devastating blow. David Witt, Landis’ best friend who was also Landis’ father-in-law, died by suicide. In an interview with Graham Bensinger, Landis admitted he didn’t handle Witt’s death properly because of everything else that was going on.

“(Witt’s death) didn’t affect me the way it would have if I was feeling well,” Landis said. “In fact, it didn’t really affect me at all, emotionally. I was so overwhelmed with what was going on that it was just something that I decided, well this is one more thing that I’ve got to deal with.

“I couldn’t take any more grief and I couldn’t take any more pain. It didn’t have any effect on me in that way at all. For years, I never really stopped to think about it. I just had to keep going. I felt kind of guilty about that, but I couldn’t deal with any more pain and I couldn’t think about it.”

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.