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Asked if he would take legal action against Landis in response to last week's allegations, Armstrong replied, "No, my days of legal action are over. Legal action takes time, energy and a lot of money. I have sued a few people in my day and have been successful there in proving my innocence. But I don't need to do that anymore. My energy needs to be devoted to the team, to Livestrong [his foundation], to my kids. I'm not going to waste time on that."
All of those reasons are credible. However, none of them will stop cynics from concluding that Armstrong isn't suing because he has zero desire to place himself under oath and be cross-examined.
Armstrong has battled a host of antagonists through the years, from writer David Walsh, who accused him of doping in his 2004 book L.A. Confidentiel, to former Tour de France champ Greg LeMond and former friend Betsy Andreu, wife of onetime USPS rider Frankie Andreu, who confessed four years ago to having used EPO to help the Texan win the '99 Tour. And Armstrong has always emerged from the fray with his reputation and following intact. But his latest adversary is by far the most formidable. Novitzky has the power to compel Armstrong—and, possibly, some of his former teammates—to testify under oath, and the Texan might face charges that expose him to a prison sentence if convicted.
Landis, meanwhile, talks about clearing his conscience and about having come forward because WADA's eight-year statute of limitations was running out on some of the drug violations he allegedly witnessed. But he also seems to be after a bit of revenge. "From Floyd's point of view, Lance has always been a bully," says a friend who requested anonymity. "Now [Lance is] getting punched back."
As he sat in the gravel on the side of a two-lane road outside Visalia last Thursday, Armstrong looked as if he'd been hit with brass knuckles. Crashing hard early in that day's Tour of California stage to Bakersfield, he suffered a nasty gash under his left eye that took eight stitches to close. The bigger problem, it turned out, was the severe contusion to his left elbow. Unable to put pressure on the handlebars or to stand in the saddle, Armstrong decided to bail on the race.
As he pedaled alongside the team car, blood dripping off his face, he asked Bruyneel, "What do I do?" The cocksure Texan, the master of all situations, wasn't sure how to quit a race. Go to the side of the road, came the reply, and Eki will pick you up.
RadioShack's assistant director, Viatcheslav Ekimov, soon drove up to fetch Armstrong. X-rays on the elbow were negative. Two days later, Armstrong was back on the bike.
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For Michael McCann's legal analysis of the allegations by Landis, go to SI.com/cycling