MALIBU, Calif. – Floyd Landis wriggled through an uncomfortable cross-examination Tuesday, carefully answering questions about the color of his tie and the timing of the firing of the manager who threatened to reveal Greg LeMond's childhood sex abuse if he testified.
It was yet another salacious morning in the Tour de France champion's arbitration hearing, which has veered wildly between boring, dense science and allegations of witness tampering and who knew what when.
During the 2 1/2 hours of testimony that ended at the lunch break, attorneys from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency dredged up the events revealed by LeMond's startling testimony last Thursday. On that day, LeMond testified he'd received a phone call the night before from Landis' manager, Will Geoghegan, who threatened to divulge the three-time Tour champion's secret.
"Would you agree, that as my mother used to say, that a person's character is revealed more by their actions than their words?" USADA attorney Matthew Barnett asked Landis.
"It sounds like a good saying," Landis said.
Then, it got ugly, as Barnett tried to portray Landis and Geoghegan as planning to intimidate and humiliate LeMond and not showing remorse until they got caught.
Barnett tried to pin down Landis on when, exactly, he told his attorneys of the call Geoghegan made last Wednesday night, and why he or his legal team waited to fire Geoghegan until after LeMond revealed details of the call.
LeMond's testimony didn't come until Thursday afternoon, and Geoghegan was sitting behind the defense table for the hearing Thursday morning.
With his attorneys, Howard Jacobs and Maurice Suh, objecting frequently to Barnett's questions, Landis told his story in bits and pieces.
He testified that he told his attorneys about the call as soon as he arrived to the hearing room Thursday, though nobody thought to fire Geoghegan until after LeMond's testimony.
"In hindsight, I probably should have fired him immediately, but I needed someone to talk to," Landis said.
USADA attorneys tried to portray Landis as an active participant. They pointed to his wardrobe that day -- wearing a black suit with a black tie instead of the yellow tie he's worn every other day of the hearing -- as evidence that he had it in for LeMond.
"That's why I wore the black suit, because it was a terrible thing that happened," Landis said. "It wasn't a thing to celebrate by wearing a yellow tie."
Was the black tie symbolic support for LeMond?
"No. It was a disaster. Nothing good could come out of that day," Landis said.
In fact, only bad things have come out of that day for Landis, whose new manager, Brent Kay, opened Monday by releasing a letter saying Geoghegan had entered a rehab clinic.
Meanwhile, a Los Angeles County sheriff's sergeant based in Malibu said a detective is investigating the police report LeMond filed after receiving the call.
The entire episode has shifted the focus away from the science that presumably will decide this case.
Instead, the hearing room felt more like a circus tent, and USADA attorneys did nothing to change the tone.
"You knew it would shatter your credibility if it came out that Geoghegan made the call?" Barnett asked, trying to prove Landis was hoping his manager would get away with the call.
"He's my friend," Landis said. "I guess I assumed he'd make a big deal out of the call. Yeah, I mean, it was a big deal."
Barnett closed his cross-examination by asking about a pair of quotes, one from Landis and one from Geoghegan, both of which implied the Landis team would do anything to win this case.
"You don't want to be the one fighting the crazy guy with nothing to lose," Landis is quoted as saying in Bicycling Magazine.
And Geoghegan: "This is about doing what it takes to win," is what he told a crowd at a recent fundraising rally, as reported in the San Diego Tribune.
Landis didn't dispute either quote.
A three-man arbitration panel will decide whether to uphold Landis' positive doping test after Stage 17 of last year's Tour. If so, Landis would become the first person in the 104-year history of the race to have his title stripped because of a doping offense.
An expert for Landis, Simon Davis, was scheduled to testify after lunch about faulty scientific procedures that the Landis camp claims led to his positive tests.