MALIBU, Calif. (AP) _ A tip for all potential arbitration witnesses out there: Never take the mike after Greg LeMond.
The three-time Tour de France winner stole the show at the Floyd Landis hearing Thursday during a short, explosive bit of testimony filled with talk of sexual abuse, blackmail and backstabbing that led to the on-the-spot firing of Landis' business manager.
It was Landis who asked for this hearing to be public, though he couldn't have expected a scene like this to break out. And though it's hard to know what impact these blockbusters had on the arbitrators, it will be hard to top LeMond for sheer watercooler conversation over the final five days.
``What I felt was right was to come here and tell the truth,'' LeMond said when his short time in the witness chair was over. ``People say it's the message that hurts this sport, but it's not that. It's cheating that hurts this sport, and that's all I have to say.''
LeMond had been called by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to testify about conversations he'd had with Landis that could have been harming to Landis' claim that he has been wrongly accused of doping during last year's Tour de France victory.
LeMond wound up disclosing he had been sexually abused as a child, and felt compelled to go public with that after receiving a call Wednesday from Landis' manager, Will Geoghegan, who knew that secret and threatened to reveal it if LeMond showed up to testify.
Shortly after LeMond dropped those bombshells, Geoghegan walked up to LeMond, apologized and admitted he made the call. That led to his prompt firing, as announced by Landis attorney Maurice Suh.
``It was a real threat, it was real creepy, and I think it shows the extent of who it is,'' LeMond said. ``I think there's another side of Floyd that the public hasn't seen.''
On Friday morning, Geoghegan released a public statement apologizing.
``I have been very angry about how unfair this whole proceeding is to Floyd, a great friend and a greater champion, and stupidly tried to take out my anger on Greg,'' Geoghegan said. ``I acted on my own, impulsively, after a beer or two. I never thought about keeping Greg from testifying.''
Landis, who is not allowed to comment to media during the hearing, sat stoically Thursday as he watched LeMond wreck his day.
Making it worse was that the cross-examination of LeMond, designed to expose his motives and impeach his credibility, was called off because LeMond refused to answer questions about Lance Armstrong.
``I just have to say, again, this is completely unfair,'' Landis attorney Howard Jacobs said.
He wanted to ask LeMond about suggestions he has made in the past that Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France winner, might have doped.
But LeMond didn't think that was the main point.
``I think they didn't want me coming here today,'' LeMond said. ``I don't know why. If you didn't do anything wrong, why would you mind me coming here today?''
LeMond's original testimony was supposed to be about conversations he said he had with Landis shortly after news of his positive ``A'' urine sample had been leaked to the media last summer.
LeMond said he urged Landis to come clean if, in fact, his backup ``B'' sample also came back tainted.
He said he encouraged Landis to help his sport and ``more importantly, help himself.''
``At this point, he said, '... what good would it do? If I did, it would destroy a lot of my friends and hurt a lot of people,''' LeMond testified.
He said he used the story of his being sexually abused when he was 6 as an example of how it's good to get things out in the open.
``It nearly destroyed me by keeping the secret,'' LeMond said.
He testified that he told Landis that very few people knew that about him, then revealed the call Geoghegan made in an attempt to intimidate him. The caller, LeMond said, pretended he was LeMond's uncle.
``He said, 'I'll be there tomorrow and we can talk about how we used to' perform a sexual act, LeMond said. ``I thought this was intimidation to keep me from coming here.''
A message left on Geoghegan's cell phone by The Associated Press was not returned.
Before lunch _ and LeMond _ things were going well for the Landis team during the cross-examination of Claire Frelat, a technician at the French lab who tested Landis' positive ``B'' sample from last year's Stage 17 for synthetic testosterone.
Frelat acknowledged she knew she was working on Landis' positive doping test. She said she knew because of media reports she had read of his positive ``A'' sample test.
The cross-examination was in line with the questions asked Wednesday of Frelat's workmate, Cynthia Mongongu, who tested Landis' positive ``A'' sample from Stage 17. Both women also participated in testing of the negative backup ``B'' samples that were done last month at the request of USADA. Four of those seven negative tests showed abnormal testosterone profiles.
The long, difficult testimony of the French-speaking witnesses was done through a translator. It was designed to show a pattern of incompetence at the French lab where the tests were done.
After LeMond, USADA called Christiane Ayotte, director of the World Anti-Doping Agency accredited lab in Montreal, to discuss testing standards in the process used on Landis' tests.
When her testimony began, however, it may as well have been a closed hearing. More than a dozen reporters and photographers were outside the hearing room with LeMond.
He insisted he appeared only to help cycling, a sport he thinks has been ruined by an unabated culture of doping.
``The sport is paying the price for all the dishonesty and lies,'' he said. ``The whole house of cards is starting to crumble.''