For those of you scoring the Floyd Landis doping case at home, a bit of advice:
Take a deep breath.
It remains to be seen whether three-time Tour de France victor Greg LeMond's sensational testimony against accused 2006 Tour winner Landis will have any significant impact on a fight that most likely will pivot on deep science, not the deep and twisted roots of a three-way feud between the only U.S. riders to win cycling's most famous event.
The only sure bet is that Landis' battle to win over public opinion took a massive hit Thursday after his business manager, former teammate and close friend Will Geoghegan was revealed to have made a legally ill-advised and personally vicious phone call to LeMond on the eve of LeMond's appearance at Landis' arbitration hearing.
Everyone in the courtroom knew LeMond agreed to testify for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency because he was out to help the agency's case against Landis. Case insiders also knew that the two riders had an acrimonious phone conversation last August, shortly after Landis' positive tests were announced, and assumed LeMond would describe that call in unflattering terms.
But few people were prepared for the broadside LeMond delivered with the simple, modern act of handing his BlackBerry to USADA lawyer Matt Barnett, who placed it on the podium to display the phone number on an overhead projector.
The number shown was one reporters covering the case had entered in their cell phones many times over the past few months as Geoghegan barnstormed the country with his friend Landis, rallying support for Landis and asking fans for contributions to fund his defense.
One can only imagine how donors to the Floyd Fairness Fund felt when they learned about what LeMond said next.
The courtroom was silent and still, except for Landis lawyer Maurice Suh, who whirled toward Geoghegan at the first mention of the phone call and began whispering to him intensely. Geoghegan, a former rider who first befriended Landis when Landis was a teenager, sat with his head bowed and his exposed neck flushed crimson in the row of seats behind the defense table.
LeMond earlier had said that during the August phone call, he confided details of his own childhood sexual abuse to Landis and implored him to admit that he had doped, a confession LeMond said could "save cycling" and Landis' own mental health.
"You were sharing this in an effort to help him?" Barnett asked.
"Yes," LeMond said.
According to LeMond, Geoghegan tried to use that information in a threatening phone call placed at 6:53 p.m. Wednesday night.
"I'm your uncle, and I'll be there tomorrow," LeMond said a then-anonymous man told him, and continued with references to vocabulary best known to pedophiles. LeMond later traced the number using a paid Internet search.
There were no public protests about the veracity of LeMond's testimony about that call. On the contrary, it seemed to be confirmed by what LeMond later characterized as Geoghegan's clumsily attempted apology during a recess, quickly followed by Suh's announcement that the cyclist had severed all professional ties with Geoghegan.
The ironic consequence of Geoghegan's action was that it gave LeMond's statements greater impact. Without it, LeMond's other testimony would have boiled down to an ambiguous he-said, he-said about his original chat with Landis last August.