The screen saver
on the home computer of Floyd and Amber Landis is a picture of the couple
embracing on July 22 in a town called Montceau-les-Mines. It was taken on the
penultimate day of the Tour de France; Floyd had just ridden into the yellow
jersey. "It all seems a little blurry," Amber said last Friday,
"like it happened a long time ago."
As the world
knows, Floyd went on to win the Tour, only to learn that a urine sample showed
an elevated level of testosterone. That result sent Landis into a downward
spiral that has been every bit as dramatic as his victory. Landis was fired by
his team, Phonak. The Tour announced that it no longer considered him the
winner of the race. iShares, which had signed a three-year deal to become the
team's title sponsor starting next season, bailed out.
Then came the
events of Aug. 15. The same day Phonak team owner Andy Rihs announced that he
was disbanding the team--"I've had to do something I've never done in my
whole life: give up!" declared the hearing-aid magnate--Landis's
father-in-law, David Witt, 57, took his own life, putting a gun to his head.
His body was found in his car in a San Diego parking garage.
Before he married
Amber's mother, Rose, Witt--an amateur bicycle racer--shared a San Diego
apartment with Landis in 1998. "We lived across from a little
preschool," Floyd recalled last spring. "Amber's mom was a teacher
there. He ran into her one day and started dating her. They introduced me to
Amber. We got married, and then they got married. So now I'm related to the guy
I shared an apartment with. But he was my friend first."
For the Landis
family, grieving was made more difficult by the fresh flurry of media
attention. The obvious question--now unanswerable--was, How big a part did
Floyd's situation play in Witt's decision to take his own life? But the
Landises weren't going there. In a phone conversation two days after Witt's
death, Landis politely declined to confirm reports that Witt had been suffering
from depression, saying only, "We have no way of knowing how much pain he
must have been in." Amber had this to add: "People are going to say
that this happened because Phonak fell apart, and that's bull----."
Amber was a
welter of emotions, feeling grief for Witt, sorrow for her suddenly widowed
mother and anger that people won't leave her husband alone. "Right
now," she said, "he's just another guy who lost somebody he