Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tragedy Strikes The Landis Household

57 year old David Witt, restaurateur and stepfather of Amber Landis, Floyd's wife, died Tuesday of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Witt, an amateur cyclist, was roommates with Floyd Landis in the 90's, introduced Landis both to his then-future wife Amber as well as road racing. Witt married Amber's mother after Amber and Landis were married. Witt was present in Paris when Landis won the Tour. (link)

My sincere condolences go out to the Landis and Witt families.

Terrible terrible news.

I can't help but think this is quickly becoming a tragedy of a most Shakespearean order.

I also can't help but refuse to accept dismissals of any connection between Witt's death and Landis' fate in the Tour. Witt and Amber's mother, Rose, has just opened a fine dining establishment in San Diego named Hawthorn's, an establishment whose success would undoubtedly be at least partly premised on Floyd's fame. Hawthorn's reportedly was decorated in Landis memorabilia. The doping scandal undoubtedly would have negatively affected any such restaurant traffic, and, further, Landis would be unable to be any sort of benefactor or investor in the restaurant after losing the Yellow Jersey, the cash prize, and the otherwise inevitable parade of commercial endorsements. Landis' fate in the Tour could have been a sign of an ultimate lost hope.

I also wonder brother and I both independently worked in a number of restaurants during our younger years--both of us in Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, later he on the NJ coast and in Southern California, and I later in North Carolina. We have also had many friends who have worked or continue to work in the industry. One thing that was common in our experience was that the restaurant industry, no matter where we went, was always some strange portal to organized criminal enterprise. Drug distribution and money laundering in particular. Corrupt organizations where it wasn't so strange to see the occasional uniformed police officer just hanging out, making you wonder why in the heck that officer was just "hanging out" with "friends."

My brother and I both grew up in a neighborhood where the families of many of our best friends were alleged to be members of the mafia. We instead saw our friends, real, genuine people, but in hindsight we also didn't really think too much about things that now seem more than just sketchy. We both have found the restaurant industry in general to be a world infused with crime, dependent upon it, equivalent to it, where many owners compromised certain principles to take a risk to go into business, if the owners weren't somewhat creepy themselves. It might be an owner who's suddenly become a restaurant owner because of a gambling debt. Or it might be an owner who was punished by bosses and sent away to run a restaurant where he otherwise wouldn't want to go. Or an owner who like running things, all sorts of things.

Whenever I hear a restaurateur committed suicide I immediately wonder how easily the conclusion of suicide was reached. It's not a rational reaction but rather a *conditioned* one.

I'm not a religious man in the least but maybe I may just say a prayer for Floyd and Amber, a prayer without regard to guilt or innocence. At this point I don't care whether he did this or that. I just wonder about his well-being. Having survived the deaths of three of my closest friends in a 10 year span, deaths that derailed so many aspects of my life, being so unprepared in my youth to cope with the death of a close friend, I wish Floyd strength.


Blogger Ministry of Information said...

It's worth taking one second to again think about what a tragedy this whole thing is...especially if Landis is eventually proven innocent. It's very hard to believe that his situation didn't play any part in Witt's ultimate decision. My sincerest condolences go out. This isn't a tragedy, it's criminal. Maybe this will help more people stop and think about the implications of declaring guilt before due process. Go Floyd!

12:04 PM  
Blogger TR said...

No one seems to be considering another possibility. Witt was a cyclist. He was the one who got Landis to try the road bike. What if his involvement in the doping case is the actual reason for his suicide?

It's odd that Landis' best friend and father-in-law decides to take his own life while Landis is going through the arguably roughest time in his career. Wouldn't you expect this person to stand behind Landis and support him, whatever his personal problems are?

If I were an investigator/prosecutor I would look into a possible link between Witt and Landis' doping. Was he at the Tour? What kind of access did he have to Landis? Was he a confidante?

1:02 PM  
Blogger Free Floyd said...

I considered that TR, truly. I however found that to make the suggestion I would need to choose to be a bit disrespectful of the dead. Besides, the chance is remote to the point of silliness. witt was busy running a restaurant not touring with cycling teams supplying them T. If restaurants are distributing illicit product it's usually crack, smack, or cocaine. the profitable stuff, the sort of stuff you can fund a fledgling business enterprise on. with a built-in cash laundering system....

3:38 PM  
Blogger WarKitty said...

I read about that earlier this week and could only think of how difficult this whole thing must be on the entire family. My heartfelt condolences go out to the Landis's. This is a horrible, trying time for both of them.

4:06 PM  
Blogger TR said...

I'm not sure if it's silly. Private relationships are often the route of illegal activity. Look at Marion Jones, she was married to two dopers who also supplied her. It's usually coach or a family member.
Being a cyclist, roommate and best friend would certainly put Witt into a circle of trust. Look at Hamilton. His wife was doing the money deals with the Spanish doctor.
Anyway, I'm not saying that he was connected, I'm simply saying that the timing of his suicide is suspicious.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Ministry of Information said...

TR - You've got a fair point and it is a possibility but I believe there's one really strong reason that this is unlikely. Witt was an ameteur cyclist not a professional. Whatever the case may be, I'm increasingly depressed by the whole thing. One thing is for certain: If Floyd is eventually proven innocent, the price paid for such a mistake might finally be enough to do some serious housecleaning in WADA and the UCI.

It's easy to see in all of this why sponsors are running for the hills. Who wants to have their business associated with the current mess that is professional cycling. Landis isn't to blame for this. There are plenty of pro cyclists that failed tests before him and plenty of stupid actions by both the UCI and WADA to make the situations worse for the sport.

4:07 AM  
Blogger Blackmingo said...

Have you reviewed this possibility? I found it in the August 15th post, comments section at

Brent Sprinkle Says:

August 15th, 2006 at 1:31 pm
could cortico-steroid injections for floyds hip have contributed to a false positive carbon isotope ratio result ????

Detection of exogenous intake of natural corticosteroids by gas chromatography/combustion/isotope ratio mass spectrometry: application to misuse in sport.Bourgogne E, Herrou V, Mathurin JC, Becchi M, de Ceaurriz J.
Laboratoire National de Depistage du Dopage, 143 avenue R. Salengro, 92290 Chatenay Malabry, France.

A detailed procedure for the analysis of exogenous hydrocortisone and cortisone in urine by gas chromatography/combustion/isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC/C/IRMS) is proposed. As urinary levels of hydrocortisone are rather low for GC/C/IRMS analysis, the focus is on the main corticosteroid metabolites, tetrahydrocortisone (THE) and tetrahydrocortisol (THF). Following different solid phase extraction purifications, THE and THF are oxidized to 5beta-androstanetrione before analysis by GC/C/IRMS. Significant differences in delta(13)C per thousand values of synthetic natural corticosteroids and endogenous human corticosteroids have been observed. Therefore, a positive criterion, to detect exogenous administration of synthetic corticosteroids in anti-doping control, is proposed. Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

6:43 AM  
Blogger jdpnlp said...

Check out
Lots of good stuff there.

7:47 PM  
Blogger ocmtbiker said...

Imagine being Floyd -- I think it is in bad taste to blame suicide on the living.

8:37 PM  
Blogger trust_but_verify said...


are you still around?


8:46 AM  
Blogger Free Floyd said...

Hi TBV, I'm around but I just had a child and am in the last month of finishing my master's thesis. a little too much on my hands to be blogging at the moment.

9:24 AM  

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