Imagine the absolute high of winning the Tour de France. To train at extraordinary levels for years and to achieve the dream of standing atop the podium in Paris is as close to cycling nirvana as it comes.
And then, the fall from grace - Floyd Landis accused of being a doper just days after his extraordinary victory. The resulting trial by media is only trumped by the suicide of his father-in-law, a hip-replacement surgery, the disbanding of his Phonak team and the $500,000 legal defense Landis must mount to clear his name. The pain must be excruciating, the anxiety intolerable, the abyss deep.
Yesterday, the French Press Agency carried a story headlined that Landis was conceding his career might be over. "There's a minute chance of me racing again in 2007," the 31-year-old is reported as saying in Belgian dailies Het Laatste Nieuws and Het Gazet van Antwerpen. "Even if I'm not suspended, who will want to sign me?"
His reputation in taters and his financial situation likely worse, Landis is undoubtedly depressed beyond belief. He has reached a low point rivaled only by the high point he achieved in July in its extreme. Il Pirate, Marco Pantani, experienced a similar fall from grace - a cross too much to bear. Hopefully, Landis' upbringing and faith in his innocence will help him persevere these difficult times. If he is innocent, he will be vanquished. And he will ride again, just as Basso is now. If he is guilty, he deserves his fate.