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Originally published July 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 15, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Jerry Brewer

Tireless Landis won't quit pursuit of innocence

Seattle Times staff columnist

I will not believe Floyd Landis. I will not believe Floyd Landis. I will not believe Floyd Landis.

I. Will. Not. Believe. Floyd. Landis.

He cannot be trusted, cannot be admired. He duped us, he doped, and that's that. Back to bashing Barry Bonds.

Landis visited Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park last Thursday, trying to promote his new book, "Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France." What a nightmare that was. A pro-Landis crowd of about 500 — "Our biggest crowd yet," publicist Brooke Emerson gushed — came to hear Landis speak, take 25 minutes' worth of questions and sign books.

Landis did not leave until every question was answered, every book signed. He seemed like he was having fun.

I thought cheaters ducked and dodged.

"He's just a normal guy," marveled a gray-haired man standing next to me while Landis spoke. "He has such a nice smile."

Normal? As opposed to diabolical?

A nice smile? As opposed to a sneer?

I will not believe Floyd Landis. I will not believe Floyd Landis. I will not believe Floyd Landis.

Landis does not come across as a con man who stole the 2006 Tour de France. He is charming, but not in a syrupy way. If you put him in a room with 7-year-olds, he would still seem innocent.

In this era of doping, no other busted athlete has proclaimed purity as long and loud as Landis. No other busted athlete has written a book. No other busted athlete has cared so much about changing public perception, even though several have fought similar legal battles.

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Bonds does not care what we think. Neither does Marion Jones. Jason Giambi lied, later said he was sorry in a non-incriminating manner, and now he pokes out his lower lip to try to illicit sympathy.

Some stars accused without evidence will not even show their faces (Mark McGwire) or speak English when the topic is performance-enhancing drugs (Sammy Sosa).

Yet here is Landis, admittedly in the lower-profile sport of cycling, fighting.

"Look, that's what WADA [the World Anti-Doping Agency] hopes for," Landis said in an interview before his appearance. "They want athletes to go into hiding, to decide it's not worth fighting for. They're afraid of having an unfair system exposed for what it is. They go into these things under the assumption that anybody who wins any sporting event is guilty of some kind of doping.

"So the means justify the end to them. You can completely fabricate a result just to say someone's guilty, and to them, that's enough."

Landis alternates between cute stories about his childhood in Lancaster, Pa., and attacks on The System. It makes him more human, less of a salesman. His words do not sound rehearsed, although he has said similar things before. He speaks in a bundle of joy and disgust, reacts with laughter and rage.

I will not believe Floyd Landis. I will not believe Floyd Landis.

A year ago, life was so different. Landis was in the yellow jersey. He was eight days from winning his first Tour, succeeding Lance Armstrong and giving America another overcoming-the-odds tale.

Then we learned he had failed a drug test. The science behind it all confuses the layman. First Landis tested positive for "an excessive ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone." After that, there were more tests. Some "B" samples of Landis' urine revealed synthetic testosterone.

Now he is suspended from his cycling team and trying to reclaim his reputation. He says he has spent $2 million defending himself. In May, he attended a bizarre arbitration hearing with the United States Anti-Doping Agency to attempt to clear his name.

A decision is pending, but that hearing will be remembered for three-time Tour champion Greg LeMond's shocking claim that Landis' business manager, Will Geoghegan, threatened to expose details of LeMond's childhood sexual abuse if he gave bad testimony. Landis has since fired Geoghegan.

There is a soap opera to everything about Landis' story. In his book, Landis does a nice job of casting reasonable doubt about his guilt, especially with claims of shoddy lab work.

"If I did my job the way they did theirs, you never would've heard of me," Landis said.

Landis knows he cannot win over everyone. Many people are too cynical. But he also knows that cynicism can work both ways. Many people love their conspiracy theories.

"Honestly, I hope people don't just believe what I say," Landis said. "I hope they listen and then look at the facts. They wouldn't have a case if this were an innocent-until-proven-guilty system.

"I know that I won the Tour. I know I worked hard for 15 years. I would not have wished this humiliation on anyone, but I know who I am."

I will not believe Floyd Landis.

He is a cheater; no, he is a victim. He is a sweet talker; no, he is a sweet man. He is feasting on his infamy; no, he is eager to claim his innocence.

Thing is, no matter what you think of him, Landis has a point. And he will not stop making it.

"Americans don't put up with this [expletive]," Landis declared to the crowd.

That's right!

Right on!

Right?

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com. For more columns and the Extra Points blog, visit seattletimes.com/sports

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About Jerry Brewer

Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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