Santa Rosa cycling icon Levi Leipheimer on Tuesday recounted his steep slide into the hidden world of doping, the emotional pain wrought by his choices, and how his relationship with Lance Armstrong deteriorated to the point where he is fearful of retribution from the man.
It was Leipheimer's first media interview since the disclosures a week ago by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that Leipheimer and several other elite U.S. riders had admitted participating in complex doping strategies that in most cases were an indictment of Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France.
The detailed report has sent ripples throughout the worldwide cycling community.
The repercussions were evident Tuesday: Leipheimer, already suspended from competition for six months, learned his 2012 team, Omega Pharma-Quickstep, terminated his contract. Just as Leipheimer — the face of the booming cycling culture in Sonoma County — was asked about his professional future, he glanced at his buzzing cellphone, looked up and with a sigh said, “I think you'll find out when we leave the table here.”
Leipheimer, who turns 39 next week, shrugged. He was expecting the call. He said he hopes he will find a team in 2013 and that he's not through with the sport.
“I don't want to stop like this,” Leipheimer said.
However he spends next year, Leipheimer said he won't be home feeling sorry for himself. The face of the Tour of California cycling race and the GranFondo charity ride that bears his name has work to do. Much of it involves trying to clean up a sport by revealing how dirty it was, he said.
Leipheimer, who last week sent an email to supporters in the North Coast cycling community apologizing for doping, said that he is aware of negative public sentiment since he came forward, but that the positive feedback he has received from friends has buoyed his spirits.