“Tour de Press”
A Public Relations Case Study
By Teddy Quinn
On July 23, 2006, after nearly 15 years of competitive cycling and his fourth Tour de France appearance, Floyd Landis pulls an upset comeback victory during the 17th stage of the 20 stage race. He made up nearly nine minutes behind the leader. Landis held the lead for the rest of the tour, and donned the yellow victory jersey in Paris during the awards ceremony at the Champs-Élysées. His performance in the 17th stage has been dubbed "one of the most epic days of cycling ever seen."
On July 27, 2006, it is announced that a test of an “A” sample of Landis’ urine taken the day of the 17th stage showed an unusually high testosterone to epitestosterone ratio. Later, on August 5, 2006, Landis’ “B” sample of urine confirms the results of his “A” test. As a result, Landis’ team, Phonak, fires him, and Tour de France officials declare they no longer consider Landis the race champion. However, Landis cannot be officially stripped of his title until a hearing process is complete.
And The Strategy…
Create a full PR campaign to preserve Landis’ name and reputation while also educating the public about the results of his tests and why they showed unusually high testosterone levels.
Following Lance Armstrong’s unprecedented seven straight Tour de France victories after nearly dying from testicular, lung and brain cancer, the Tour de France becomes a more prominent part of American culture. After Armstrong’s retirement from competitive cycling in 2005, America looks to Floyd Landis as the heir apparent after his ninth place overall finish at the 2005 tour. After a difficult start to the 2006 Tour, in which Landis finds himself in 11th place and more than eight minutes behind the leader by the 16th stage, he mounts one of the greatest comebacks in cycling history. During the grueling 17th mountain stage, Landis pulls off one of the greatest cycling efforts ever and makes up his nearly nine minute time deficit. Landis retains the lead into the final stage and is crowned victor of the 2006 Tour de France in Paris. The following week, it is leaked that a rider on the tour had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Speculations point to Landis after his incredible 17th stage performance. On July 27th 2007, it is announced that Landis tested positive for unusually high levels of testosterone after his 17th stage victory. Landis spent the next year battling bad press and fighting to preserve his good name by educating the public and challenging the Union Cycliste Internationale’s (UCI’s) test results.
I. Floyd Landis
• Born October 14, 1975 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
• A professional rider since 1999
• A member, for three years, of Lance Armstrong’s US Postal Service Team
• A time trial and climbing specialist
• Devout Mennonite
• Married to Amber Basile
• Boasted to friends, at age 20, that he would one day win the Tour de France
• Suffered from osteonecrosis - deterioration in the ball joint of his right hip. Both NFL star Brett Farve and former MLB and NFL star Bo Jackson suffered from the same ailment.
II. The Tour de France
• A 22 day and 20 stage race around the country of France
• 1800 – 2500 miles long
• An annual race since its 1903 inception
• USA has had a total of 10 wins during the history of the tour
III. Testosterone and Epitestosterone (T/E) Ratio
• Testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone in males
• Epitestosterone is a chemically natural steroid that is produced independently of Testosterone
• Although T/E ratios vary from person to person, most males have a 1:1 ratio
• Ratios greater than 4:1 are rare, and usually indicate the use of an outside agent or steroid to increase testosterone and, in turn, muscle bulk and strength
• Landis’ T/E ratio after his dramatic performance on Stage 17 of the tour was 11:1
• In some rare cases, ratios of even 10:1 have been shown to be a natural part of a male’s metabolism
Landis’ Situational Analysis (SWOT)
• Established a website (www.floydlandis.com) in 2005, and can be used as a means to disseminate information quickly
• Historical success in the stage in which he dominated in the tour – a naturally talented climbing cyclist
• Friends with prominent cycling figures (Lance Armstrong, Arnie Baker etc.)
• Of the seven drug tests administered to Landis during the tour, only one suggested doping
• Very negative stigma surrounding professional cycling
• 11:1 T/E ratio is well above the 4:1 limit
• Essentially fighting science and testing methods
• Ruthless European press prods into Landis’ personal life
• Can become a success story as a cyclist and person if proven innocent
• Can utilize professional cycling contacts to help clear name
• Vicious Press
• Cycling is getting a dirtier reputation
• Tour is a growing part of American culture (larger audience to reach)
• Guilty until proven innocent
• Threat of ban from cycling
• Threat of losing Tour de France win
Goals of Landis’ Campaign
1. Restore his good name within both the cycling and general population
2. Offer reasons as to why his test results registered an 11:1 T/E ratio
• Conduct a global public relations campaign utilizing vast communications mediums
• Reach targeted public(s) at various levels in an effort to explain and educate about his unusually high T/E ratio
Landis’ Targeted Publics
• The world cycling population
o The UCI – Cycling’s governing body
o World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)
o Other racers and race directors/promoters
o Recreational riders or amateur riders
• The U.S. population aware of his doping allegations
o United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)
o A growing audience as The Tour de France is becoming a part of American popular culture
o Very difficult to change perceptions of an increasingly doping savvy and intolerable audience
• The world population aware of doping scandals
• This audience is growing as more doping scandals in professional sports arise
Landis’ Mediums and Methods
o Continuous updating of FloydLandis.com to keep the public informed as to Landis’ thoughts and actions. Most of these “mini releases” are signed by Floyd for a more personal touch, and discuss his next step in clearing his name
o Posting on various cycling blogs to answer questions from cycling fans and critics
o Landis posted hundreds of pages of technical documents and legal correspondences related to his case, including a slide presentation assembled by his coach, Dr. Arnie Baker on his website.
o Landis’ Free Landis Fund website provides links to numerous press releases and media coverage about his case
• Print Media
o In June of 2007, Landis published his book Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won The Tour de France
o Positively false provides readers a personal account of the events leading up to and developed after Landis’ 2006 Tour victory
o Press in bicycling magazines
o Landis conducted a media tour and appeared on Leno’s Tonight Show, Hannity and Colmes, ABC's Good Morning America, as well as the Today Show, CNN, ESPN, and CBS – programs with a national and even world reach.
o Television appearances helped create a favorable and genuine image, and provided an opportunity to explanation and defense.
• Third Party Endorsement
o Use of ex-teammate and friend, Lance Armstrong, as an ally and supporter of his innocence. Lance has helped defend Landis since the first allegations.
o Use of Dr. Arnie Baker. The world renowned coach holds a series of "town hall meetings" aimed at influencing public opinion and building a legal defense fund by discussing scientific and clerical errors in the testing.
• Establishing Foundations, Camps and Funds
o Established Floyd Power Training Camp for amateur cyclists in late 2006. Cyclists get the chance to meet, ride and interact with Landis.
o Established Floyd Fairness Fund in an effort to raise money for his court costs and media tours.
o Established the Floyd Landis Foundation, which seeks to “support research for the treatment and prevention of degenerative arthritis (Osteoarthritis), artificial joint replacement and the funding of treatment for individuals, including disadvantaged youth, suffering from the condition.”
• Landis’ campaign generated consistent coverage in The New York Times for an entire year.
• Landis stayed strong to his convictions, even after he was defeated by the arbitration panel.
• Newspapers were less personal that Landis’ website.
Speed Bumps Along the Way
I. On May 16th 2007, Landis’ business manager Will Geoghegan places a threatening phone call to Greg Lemond, a three-time tour winner, in order to stop him from testifying against Landis. Geoghegan threatens to tell the press childhood abuse secrets Lemond disclosed to Landis prior to Landis’ doping allegations.
II. Testing of seven “B” urine samples taken from Landis during the tour that were not tested because their corresponding “A” samples showed no signs of testosterone reportedly show high T/E ratios.
III. On September 20, 2007, Landis was officially stripped of his title by an arbitration panel who ruled that Landis used performance enhancing drugs to win the 2006 Tour de France. He is now subject to a two-year ban from cycling and has until October 30, 2007 to appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
An Ongoing Campaign
• On October 10, 2007, Landis announced that he would appeal the arbitration panel’s decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
• In an October 10th press release from FloydLandis.com, Landis states, “I will continue to work to clear my name and fight for change in the name of fairness and justice.”
• Landis now believes that his test sample was mistreated in the lab, and this caused the unusually high T/E ratio.
• Kyle Wintersteen is a graduated in 2004 with a Public Relations degree from Penn State University. Wintersteen, an elite javelin thrower in HS and college, worked as a member of Bucknell University’s athletic communications staff immediately after graduation, and is currently an associate editor for American Hunter Magazine. An avid sports fan, Wintersteen has followed other doping and performance enhancing drug cases in the track and field and baseball world. Here is what he had to say about Landis’ campaign as presented by Teddy Quinn before a decision by the arbitration panel:
“Although I don’t know how this whole [case] will turn out for him, I do admire Landis’ courage in representing himself on a national level. He is facing the issue head on and is definitely NOT taking the easy way out…He has also done a great job of using the tools necessary to get his story out whether it be via his website, book or television. The more time he spends putting himself out there, defending his case, the more the world will realize how he is either an amazing liar, or there is a flawed testing system in professional cycling.”
• I feel that Landis did a great job with his PR efforts. Because he is so passionate about what he’s doing, it really makes people believe that he is truthful, and the tests were either off, or his body naturally produced the high T/E ratio.
• Landis’ use of his website, quick publishing of his book, and television appearances helped reach a large audience and convey his message of innocence.
• I also feel that Landis did a great job of reaching his targeted publics but utilizing very popular media.
• I do feel, however, that this campaign is getting towards its end. At this point, it does not really matter what the public’s opinion is toward Landis as they cannot change the outcome of his case. His campaign serves more as an informational entity, so curious onlookers can be updated to the sayings and doings of Floyd Landis.
Associated Press. "LeMond Accuses Landis’S Camp of Trying to Silence His Testimony." The New York Times 18 May 2007. 13 Oct. 2007
"Epitestosterone." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 24 Sept. 2007. 6 Oct. 2007
"Floyd Landis." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 5 Oct. 2007. 12 Oct. 2007
Ford, Bonnie D. "Floyd Landis Timeline." ESPN.Com. 20 Sept. 2007. 12 Oct. 2007
Jenkins, Lee. "Under Oath, Landis Denies Using Testosterone." The New York Times 20 Mar. 2007. 13 Oct. 2007
Macur, Juliet. "Landis Files Final Appeal in Doping Case." The New York Times 11 Oct. 2007. 13 Oct. 2007
Macur, Juliet. "Landis’S Positive Doping Test Upheld." The New York Times 21 Sept. 2007. 10 Oct. 2007
Macur, Juliet. "Report Says the Backup Samples From Landis Test Positive." The New York Times 24 Apr. 2007. 13 Oct. 2007
Macur, Juliet. "Report Says the Backup Samples From Landis Test Positive." The New York Times 24 Apr. 2007. 13 Oct. 2007
Tour De France Blog 2007. 29 Sept. 2007
Wyatt, Edward. "Landis Uses New Book to Address Charges." The New York Times 15 June 2007. 13 Oct. 2007