Letter sent out by FBI about cyclist's fund
Informs those who contributed to Floyd Landis that they are victims of a federal crime. By Cindy Stauffer, Staff Writer email@example.com
Mike Farrington got a letter from the FBI last week.
The owner of Green Mountain Cyclery in Ephrata almost laughed.
The letter informed Farrington that he had been a victim of a federal crime, because Farrington contributed to the Floyd Fairness Fund. That was a fund set up by former Lancaster County resident Floyd Landis during his fight against charges that he cheated when he won the 2006 Tour de France bicycle race.
Landis later revealed that he had, indeed, cheated, not only at the Tour but in other races by taking performance-enhancing drugs.
But that was three years after more than 1,700 people, including Farrington and hundreds of others in Lancaster County, contributed to his fund in 2007. Landis has agreed to pay back the supporters $478,354.
Farrington doesn't remember exactly how much money he contributed to Landis, estimating it was in the thousands. That fact isn't in the letter, which he said was very generic.
He isn't holding his breath anyway.
"My wife and I went through so much garbage with this," Farrington said, referring to his dealings with Landis, who, he said, "grew up in my bike shop" after developing an interest in first mountain bikes and then road bike racing.
"We washed our hands of the whole thing [several] years ago," he said. "It's ancient history.
"What are you going to do? Are you going to get blood from a stone? He hasn't been employed. We aren't going to get any money from him. It's a joke."
And Farrington really isn't interested in the money, or in anything else Landis, former teammate Lance Armstrong or other cheating bicyclists have to offer these days.
"The best way to put it is, it doesn't matter to me what he did or didn't do," he said. "It is irrelevant. He lied to everyone and, to make matters worse, he took everyone's money under false pretenses."
Back in 2007, Farrington helped Landis, a Farmersville native and Conestoga Valley High School graduate, organize local appearances that raised about $18,000 for his legal fund.
In one appearance at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center, with his Mennonite parents and some of his former teachers present, Landis said, "Would someone who is guilty come home and sit in front of 300 people, with their parents in the audience, and claim they are innocent? Is that something a guilty person would do?"
People at the event not only contributed money to his fund, they also gave Landis a standing ovation, prayed for him and called him an inspiration.
"The majority of people went to those events thinking they were giving an honest guy who got a bad shake a donation," Farrington said.
Farrington is not sure if others in the county also received a letter from the FBI about possible restitution. He guesses that many local people likely donated cash to the legal fund, and there might not have been any record of who those local contributors were.
More upsetting than the money, Farrington said, is the treachery that was fomented by Landis, Armstrong and others in the sport until their lies caught up with them.
"They swore up and down they never did a thing, then they finally admitted it," he said. "The pattern is the same for all of them -- Lance just did it on a grander scale -- deny, deny, deny.
"I feel sorry for all of them that they took something as pure and fun as riding a bicycle and wrecked it for themselves."
Now a tangle of lawsuits awaits, along with the promised restitution.
"It's going to take a long time to unravel this mess," Farrington said.
According to a press release from the San Diego office of the FBI, the government has agreed to ultimately dismiss the information filed against Landis in three years if he makes restitution to donors and lives up to other terms of an agreement.
According to a recent story posted by Velo News, a cycling magazine and website, sources have said that part of the settlement dictates that Landis would be allowed to contact donors with a "letter of contrition," informing them they could claim restitution or waive their right.
Farrington has not received any letter from Landis at this point.
Another pending factor in the case is a lawsuit Landis has filed against Armstrong and former U.S. Postal team managers, Velo News reported. The "whistleblower" lawsuit claims Armstrong and the team managers defrauded the government.
Landis made public allegations about Armstrong and others in the sport several years ago, allegations Armstrong vociferously denied and fought until recently.
If Landis wins the lawsuit, he could receive up to 25 percent of $90 million, which is what the Postal Service spent.
To Farrington, at this point, it's all talk and legal motions.
He hasn't seen Landis since 2007, when he hosted a final event that allowed supporters to ride with Landis, followed by a picnic. Farrington believes Landis is living in California but does not know if he is working or earning money.
Farrington said he did not watch Armstrong's recent confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey, though it did vindicate Landis' earlier claims about the sport.
"I guess my biggest thing was well, yep, Floyd opened up the can of worms. Really, Floyd did start all of this, and he was right.
"Does it change anything? No."n