Cyclist Floyd Landis admits defrauding donors with doping lies
Former cycling champion Floyd Landis has admitted defrauding more than 1,700 people who donated to his "Fairness Fund" aimed at defending him against charges that he used performance-enhancing drugs, the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego announced Friday.
The one-time teammate of embattled Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong later admitted he used the substances. He is among the cyclists who accused Armstrong of long-term doping in Armstrong's record-setting run of seven Tour de France victories.
Landis has agreed to repay more than $478,000 to the donors, according to court documents released Friday.
“Our primary objective was to seek and obtain restitution for the over 1,500 victims,” said Peter J. Mazza, assistant U.S. attorney. “He wasn’t prosecuted because he was a cyclist. Nor was he given the agreement because he was a cyclist. Our case was focused on the fraudulent raising of funds.”
Mazza said the payment to victims will be made over three years.
Landis, winner of the 2006 Tour de France after he left Armstrong's team, was stripped of his title after doping officials discovered excessive testosterone in urine samples taken after a stage of the 2006 Tour. Prosecutors say he spent more than $2 million to fight the charges, some of which was drawn from the fund.
In a statement and court documents released Friday by the Justice Department, prosecutors say Landis lied to donors after he set up the “Floyd Landis Fairness Fund” in 2007 and solicited financial support to contest “unsubstantiated” doping allegations. In May 2010, he admitted using “a staggering array” of performance-enhancing drugs, prosecutors said, and thereby “knowingly defrauded” his supporters.
“I am acutely aware that … I lied to trusting people,” Landis is quoted in the documents as telling ESPN in 2010.
Had Landis been convicted of the charge of wire fraud, he would have faced up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the documents.
Landis, a 36-year-old resident of Idyllwild in Riverside County, became famous for winning cycling’s biggest race, and for the controversy that followed. He repeatedly denied doping, releasing a 2007 book titled “Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France.”
“I did not use PEDs in the 2006 Tour de France or any other time in my career,” Landis wrote in the book.
Landis appeared in federal court in San Diego on Friday to enter his Deferred Prosecution Agreement in which he admitted defrauding 1,765 donors and agreed to repay $478,354, according to a statement from the U.S. attoney's office.
The announcement comes the same day the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency disqualified Armstrong's seven Tour de France titles and imposed a lifetime competition ban “as a result of his anti-doping rules violations.”
-- Matt Stevens
Photo: Floyd Landis, left, rides in support of his team leader, Lance Armstrong, during an Alpine stage of the 2004 Tour de France, two years before going on to win the race himself, a title he lost to doping allegations. Credit: Bernard Papon / Associated Press