WASHINGTON—Tour de France riders aside, almost no one is awaiting the results of winner Floyd Landis' second drug test more anxiously than sponsors of top cycling teams and other promoters of the sport.
Also concerned are drug-abuse foes who fear that widespread use of performance enhancers by top athletes, if confirmed, will make them role models of the worst kind.
"You'll get kids who think, `Well, I'm nowhere near as good as they are, so I really need drugs,'" said Floyd Farley, a psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia who studies sports heroes. "It's a really bad model for kids."
Landis, 30, who won cycling's most prestigious race on Sunday, fell from grace on Thursday when his team confirmed that he'd flunked a drug test administered during the Tour by the International Cycling Union.
Landis still is awaiting test results from a ``B'' or backup sample.
At a news conference on Friday, Landis denied any illicit drug use.
Andy Rihs, the Swiss owner of Landis' team, announced last month that Phonak was dropping out as its sponsor. The team had dismissed several riders in recent years due to doping suspicions, including American Tyler Hamilton, once a top contender, who was suspended from the sport for blood doping in 2004.
Rihs, in an interview with the Times of London days before the allegation against Landis surfaced, acknowledged that cycling's reputation was making it difficult to support.
"Think hard before you get involved in cycling, because there are never any guarantees when it comes to doping," said Rihs, who's been mum to reporters since then.
A spokesman for a company that backs a rival Tour de France team said many sponsors are worried about the downside of being associated with cycling. He asked not to be identified because his company is trying to ride out the Landis storm by lying low.
Joyce Carrier, director of public affairs for the United States Postal Service, which sponsored Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong through 2004, acknowledged the sport's doping problem.
"Almost no sports are without incidents, and unfortunately, cycling continues to have this taint," she said.
Armstrong had been accused numerous times of doping, but he has denied the allegations and they've never been confirmed.
Like most sponsors, the USPS team had an anti-drug provision in its contract with Armstrong and other riders, according to Carrier.
"If he was guilty, he would have been gone," she said.
The U.S. Postal Service now sponsors a NASCAR team, which Carrier described as "a very positive brand."
Drug-contaminated sports can have adverse effects on fans, especially teens, said Stanley Teitelbaum, author of the book, "Sports Idols: Fallen Heroes."
"Most of our kids turn to the world of sports to find their role models, so if they're cheaters or abusing women or taking drugs to hit more home runs, that can really affect a teenager's perception," he said.
But getting dinged for drugs could teach kids a lesson, said Matt Fritzinger, founder of the NorCal High School Mountain Bike League, based in Berkeley, Calif.
"I'd like to think what's happening with some of these top pros is sending a message to young riders," he said. "They are seeing what's happening to these cyclists and how it's ruining their lives."
But some athletes may not be able to exercise self-control, said Temple's Farley.
"Competition is incredible, and many of these folks are risk-takers anyway," he said. "It's awful tempting to try a little bit, and if it works and you don't get caught, you do a little more and then it just reinforces the behavior."
If Landis' abuse is confirmed, he added, it might help.
"We'll probably see a return to pure skill over time because there will be more sophisticated detecting," Farley said.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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