LEADVILLE — Floyd Landis’ perfect life began to unravel within days of winning the Tour de France a decade ago last month. He tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Like every other racer caught doping, he denied it and then launched several years of expensive, and yet fruitless litigation.
The scrutiny weighed heavy as he was ostracized from his tribe for following, as it turned out, the well-worn doping path.
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“That was a hard couple years. There were very few of us out there like that — me and Tyler Hamilton — and we knew the whole story, but we didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to turn on those guys, but the way the public and press reacted to it, it just felt like I was getting abused,” he said. “That’s why I checked out of life.”
Landis, now 40, admitted his drug use in a bombshell 2010 e-mail that named names as it detailed doping procedures and exposing the sport’s darkest secret. The ripples of his admission linger today. A whistleblower lawsuit he filed against Lance Armstrong in 2010 — and joined by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2013 — could go to trial next year.
He moved to a small town in California. A hip injury led to an addiction to pain pills.
“One minute they make you feel great and the next minute you need them to function,” he said. “Absolutely awful stuff.”
Today, Landis is onboard with a new dope that he credits with his recovery. Floyd’s of Leadville launched last month, peddling high-end cannabis-infused products like CO2-extracted hash oil and pharmaceutical-grade transdermal ointments.
His product line, he said, is designed for “a group of people not assumed to be pot users.”
“Our line of products is targeted more to people who want to be discreet when they use it,” Landis said as he watched a steady stream of Leadville Trail 100 mountain bikers climb toward Columbine Mine. “Sure, there are a lot of people who feel it’s taboo, and everyone has been told that since the beginning of time and it’s going to take a while for that to go away, but the fact is, there are a lot of people who use it and don’t talk about it.”
Landis is no stranger to discreet doping. Using and keeping it quiet was the M.O. in cycling. He was one of the first to get busted. But by 2012, when the mighty Lance Armstrong admitted to systematic doping throughout his career, it was evident that nearly every athlete at the top of the sport in the 1990s and early 2000s was pedaling with performance-enhancing drugs. Landis was just ahead of the curve.
Once again, Landis is at the front of the pack, leading the high-country cannabis scene with top-shelf products cultivated from mountain-grown plants.
Landis didn’t use marijuana when he was racing. It just wasn’t part of the culture, he said. But it helps him today.
Tanned, a little heavier and quick with a hearty laugh, Landis is the father of a 2-year-old girl and is happy. Sometimes, he said, he takes a puff of his vape pen to help him sleep. It helps with his lingering hip pain. His transdermal cream works really well — better than opioids, but without the “horrible, horrible side effects and addiction,” he said.
“It just helps me relax,” he said. “It’s honestly the best transdermal stuff out there. This makes my life better.”
He’s not ready to take the route forged by Ross Rebagliati, the Canadian snowboarder who converted his temporarily yanked Olympic gold medal into a stage for promoting not just his own line of cannabis, but the training benefits of marijuana for hardcore athletes. But Landis is happy to advocate for a rational review of the nation’s failing drug war.
“Current federal laws do far more harm for society than any possible legalization can do,” he said, noting that draconian drug laws have targeted minorities and filled prisons with non-violent young men who should be working and raising families.
Floyd’s of Leadville products are based on marijuana cultivated in Colorado’s high country. His cannabis oil extraction process uses CO2, not the solvents and flammable gases used elsewhere. He’s hired technicians with pharmacy degrees who follow pharmaceutical guidelines and use top equipment to extract THC from flowers. He’s planning a line of edibles to join his existing product line of transdermal ointments and vape-pen oils.
Landis is part of a growing trend of famous musicians — and some athletes — promoting marijuana. Pro-model pot helps differentiate products in an increasingly crowded market. It likely works even if your name is associated with the more negative connotation of doping. Landis said he’s ready for the “doper peddling dope” reaction. Early feedback has been good, he said.
“I thought, ‘This could either go really, really badly or everyone will just take it as a joke and we’ll all be good about it.’ They were like, ‘Yeah, the dude is selling weed. Right on. Why wouldn’t he be selling weed? He obviously likes drugs. We know that,'” he said. “There’s been very little cynical press about it.”
Landis loves Leadville. He fell for the place after racing the Leadville Trail 100 in 2007, drawing the eyes of road-racing’s elite athletes to the once local endurance mountain biking contest.
He spends most of his year in Leadville. It reminds him of tiny Idyllwild, Calif., west of Los Angeles, where he escaped the glare of public revision after that fateful 2006 drug test.
“There are such interesting people up here and they have stories I can relate to,” he says. “I like meeting these people and hearing their stories and sometimes, it makes me feel better about myself. Some of them have been through worse things than I’ve been through.”