The screen saveron the home computer of Floyd and Amber Landis is a picture of the coupleembracing on July 22 in a town called Montceau-les-Mines. It was taken on thepenultimate day of the Tour de France; Floyd had just ridden into the yellowjersey. "It all seems a little blurry," Amber said last Friday,"like it happened a long time ago."
As the worldknows, Floyd went on to win the Tour, only to learn that a urine sample showedan elevated level of testosterone. That result sent Landis into a downwardspiral that has been every bit as dramatic as his victory. Landis was fired byhis team, Phonak. The Tour announced that it no longer considered him thewinner of the race. iShares, which had signed a three-year deal to become theteam's title sponsor starting next season, bailed out.
Then came theevents of Aug. 15. The same day Phonak team owner Andy Rihs announced that hewas disbanding the team--"I've had to do something I've never done in mywhole life: give up!" declared the hearing-aid magnate--Landis'sfather-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 marriedAmber's mother, Rose, Witt--an amateur bicycle racer--shared a San Diegoapartment with Landis in 1998. "We lived across from a littlepreschool," Floyd recalled last spring. "Amber's mom was a teacherthere. He ran into her one day and started dating her. They introduced me toAmber. We got married, and then they got married. So now I'm related to the guyI shared an apartment with. But he was my friend first."
For the Landisfamily, grieving was made more difficult by the fresh flurry of mediaattention. The obvious question--now unanswerable--was, How big a part didFloyd's situation play in Witt's decision to take his own life? But theLandises weren't going there. In a phone conversation two days after Witt'sdeath, Landis politely declined to confirm reports that Witt had been sufferingfrom depression, saying only, "We have no way of knowing how much pain hemust have been in." Amber had this to add: "People are going to saythat this happened because Phonak fell apart, and that's bull----."
Amber was awelter of emotions, feeling grief for Witt, sorrow for her suddenly widowedmother and anger that people won't leave her husband alone. "Rightnow," she said, "he's just another guy who lost somebody heloved."
BETTER DAYS Witt (right) set up Landis and Amber (with daughter Ryan).
JOHN GIBBONS/¬©2006 SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE/ZUMA PRESS
[See Above Caption]