Monday 9 December 2019

Paul Kimmage talks to Floyd Landis - He won the Tour de France, then lost it for doping, and it almost cost him his life

 

Floyd Landis. Photo: Getty Images
Floyd Landis. Photo: Getty Images
Paul Kimmage

Paul Kimmage

Almost eight years have passed since November 2010 and my last interview with Floyd Landis - a magazine piece for The Sunday Times and a 30,000 word Q&A with a classy, and ballsy, website called NYVelocity. The total cost was three writs, five years of harassment from a Swiss court, and 18 months as an unemployed writer when I lost my job. But here's the thing: Floyd was worth it.

What is it about this doper I admire so much?

Well, let's see now. He swears more than I do and does rage better than anyone I know. His name is synonymous with lies and deceit but I've never met a bike rider who speaks more truth. He won a stage of the Tour de France once that was the greatest I've ever witnessed, and possibly the greatest of all time. He was an extraordinary bike rider, but he's an even better person.

Ten weeks ago . . .

We're sitting in a midtown bar in Manhattan and he's telling me a story from his childhood about a game they played in school that kind of explains him. A mix of 'Blind Man's Bluff' and 'Liar's Poker', the teacher would gather them all around, he says, and slip one of them a note with a secret they had to defend. One day it was Floyd's turn and within seconds of being selected he had turned bright red.

"They knew I had it immediately," he says. "I was supposed to bluff and answer questions but I couldn't do it. I could not tell lies. It seems funny now but as a kid, and for most of my life, I've been terrified of getting into trouble. It causes me severe anxiety. I'm not Lance Armstrong. I can't play poker and just stand and stare. That's how I fucked everything up. I tried to lie."

Life was being kinder since the last time we'd met. An eight-year government lawsuit with Lance Armstrong had just been settled. He had won the love of a beautiful woman (Alex), become a father to a beautiful girl (Margaret), and had established a medicinal cannabis company in Colorado ('Floyd's of Leadville') that was absolutely thriving.

So there was a lot to catch-up on that evening in Manhattan.

1 Darkness and light

Darkness is falling on the mountain. The only winner in the history of the Tour de France to be disqualified for doping rises from his chair and flicks on a lamp. For nine months, since the emails were leaked to the press, he has lived and moved like a fugitive. He still races his bike but the fire merely flickers now. People are generally kind but he feels awkward in their gaze.

Landis with Tiger Williams: ‘I’m alive because of a couple of people — Tiger Williams and Brent Kay
Landis with Tiger Williams: ‘I’m alive because of a couple of people — Tiger Williams and Brent Kay

The walls are bereft of portraits or mementos of his glories. He is 35 years old, broke, unemployed and owes $80,000 to lawyers. Newspapers refer to him as "the proven liar and drugs cheat", and there is a chance he may be jailed for perjury. He feels guilty about that and the pain he inflicted on family and friends.

"You know," he says, "my parents were right about a lot of things. At some level, whatever life you live, you have to accept things before you can be happy - whether that's having very little, like they prefer, or having everything. Until you are content with what you've got, you are always chasing something, or running from something, neither of which is good."

"Where are you?" I ask.

The Sunday Times,

January 30, 2011

Paul Kimmage: It's fair to say that your circumstances have improved significantly since the last time we met.

Floyd Landis (laughs): Dramatically. When was that?

PK: November 2010, you were living in that cabin in the San Jacinto mountains and drinking a bottle of scotch a day.

FL: Yeah, that was about the peak of it. For whatever reason, when I drink I don't . . . I don't pass out or black out or end up getting arrested. I was at home and would just drink on my own and it (depression) would come and go, depending on how I was doing in the few years after that. I've toned it down now and try not to drink too much whisky, or beer for that matter, but I still self-medicate a little. It's still there.

PK: Is that what it was? Medication?

FL: I think so, yeah.

PK: For depression?

FL: Yeah, but that wasn't a result of 2006 and all those events, I've always had that. My drug initially was cycling, that helped me deal with depression, but then I wasn't racing anymore so I just replaced it with alcohol. I think if that whole thing had happened to me ten years later it probably would have killed me. If I was to go through it again I don't know if I could make it.

PK: That bad?

FL: Yeah. I probably overdid it on the alcohol but honestly, as dumb as it sounds, in some sense it kept me alive because it allowed me to check out. I wasn't able to sit there all day thinking about it, so for me it was: 'If I can just turn off my brain for a little bit I think I can stay alive.'

PK: That cabin wasn't the best place you could have been?

FL: For me it was. I didn't want to talk to anybody and felt bad that I had lied. So for my mental health, in one sense, it was bad, but I needed time and I don't think I would do it any different.

PK: You owned that place?

FL: Yeah.

PK: What happened to it?

FL: The bank repossessed it not long after you were there. The price had dropped to half of what I'd paid for it and I didn't have any income. The same thing happened to the house in Temecula (where he'd lived with his former wife, Amber.) They were both in my name and I just figured, 'What's the point in continuing to pay the mortgage on something that I can't afford?' And I couldn't sell it for what I owed so I just walked away.

PK: From both places?

FL: Yeah, which wasn't good for my credit but it didn't matter at that point.

PK: You were broke?

FL: Yeah.

PK: From the (legal) fight with USADA?

FL: Yeah.

PK: How much did that cost in total?

FL: Two-and-a-half million maybe? It was a real fight, and I still resent them for some of the things they did. The 'B' sample was negative at the UCLA lab and they just retroactively changed the positivity criteria - you can't do that! And that just made me want to fight more. In hindsight, I should have stepped back and said: 'This isn't really worth it because I'm fucked anyway.' But I had to fight, it kept me alive.

PK: What interests me is that you knew you had doped?

FL: Yeah.

PK: But they had busted you on a charge that wasn't valid?

FL: Right.

PK: But if you knew you had doped, why not just keep the money and take the hit?

FL: Because it wasn't about money. Honestly, I don't care that much about money. You might see it differently, and people are principled in different ways, but for me it was a matter of principle: 'I didn't do this, and you guys aren't even trying to catch people for the things they are doing, so I'm going to fight. And I'm going to fight like nobody has ever fought.' I didn't want to end up homeless and broke but it got to a point where I was . . . well, not suicidal, but I didn't really care if I lived.

PK: At what point?

FL: I had the stamina to last two or three years but by the time I got to 2009/2010 I was just tired and, yeah, I was done fighting. They won. But for me, the choice of keeping the money and not saying anything was . . . I don't think I would have been able to live with myself on that.

PK: That's not you.

FL: It's not who I am.

PK: What about Amber?

FL: We talk once in a while. There was still a little bit of money left when we got divorced (in 2009) and I just gave her whatever was left. She bought a house and remarried and I think she's doing okay but it was hard on her. And I think she still has some animosity, or resentment at least.

PK: What does she resent?

FL: I think she resents the fact that I just couldn't accept it and be happy. But it mattered to me - not that I could say I won the Tour de France - but that people understood that the entire thing was a fraud.

PK: She wanted you to play the system?

FL: Yeah.

PK: Not an unreasonable position?

FL: No, it was not an unreasonable request: 'Let's move on with our lives and go figure how to be happy.' But I couldn't do it. I became absolutely obsessed with it and didn't have the energy for anything else, and she got left out and has every right to feel . . . (aggrieved). It was not her fault.

PK: So you've no income and the bank repossesses your home. How do you survive?

FL: I'm alive because of a couple of people - Tiger Williams and Brent Kay. I met Brent on a bike ride early one morning when I joined the Postal team in 2001. He was a doctor who lived in Temecula and we would ride when I was in town, but I didn't really get to know him until about a year later, when I broke my hip and he connected me with a surgeon. Brent is a genuinely nice guy and a really great friend. He paid for a lot of my legal bills too.

PK: How did you meet Williams?

FL: Well, one of the ways the Postal Service financed the team was a thing called the 'Champions Club' - which was fucking embarrassing (given) it was just a bunch of rich guys. They would come to training camps and we'd ride with them, and come to the Tour, and some of them were insufferable rich assholes that I'd never want to talk to again. But Tiger was genuinely nice.

PK: What's his background?

FL: He's from Boston, a broker/dealer who did well trading stocks. He played hockey at Yale and understood the dream of being a professional athlete but he also understand that . . .

PK: It ends?

FL: It ends, and it's fucking hard if you don't have a plan.

PK: How did you connect?

FL: For a couple of years he was close friends with Lance, I don't know how close, but they got along and would spend time together when Lance was in New York. He's a smart guy, and I suspect he had his ideas about what was happening, but I never had a discussion with him about the drugs. And then he called me when I sent the emails (detailing his experience at Postal and the abuse of PEDS) and I figured Lance had been on to him and that he was calling me to tell me to stop. So I emailed him: 'Look, dude, you're wasting your time. I'm not going to row back.'

PK (laughs): You emailed Tiger?

FL: Yeah. And he wrote me an email that I think was disclosed in the case: 'Hey Floyd, that's not why I'm calling. If whatever you're saying is the truth, you should be very, very, careful and make sure it is exactly right. You don't get a second chance at this.' And that was really good advice because (those emails) became the record, and if there was anything to pick apart they (Armstrong's lawyers) would have focused on that.

PK: Sure.

FL: But it was funny how it worked out: Tiger was one of the first people Lance called trying to get me to stop, and one of the few people I discussed it with as it was happening. And then, after it all went down and things weren't great for me, he said: 'Maybe a change would be good. Why don't you come out here and work for me?' So I came out in the spring of 2011, but I didn't want to work in a Wall Street job, that's just not me.

PK: Weren't you toying with the idea of studying law?

FL: I applied to Yale. They have a programme for people that have had unusual experiences and I thought I could get it. Tiger had gone there and I had the best possible references but basically they told me: 'No, you cheated at sports and we see that as the same as cheating in academia.'

PK: Really?

FL: Yeah, and then I was so fucking down on the whole thing. I thought: 'Man! If the self-proclaimed smartest guys in the world can't figure that these two are not the same thing then . . .'

PK: What two?

FL: Sport and academia. Look, the highest level of professional sport is basically a war - you can't equate that to a kid who cheats on a test in school! I refuse to accept it's the same thing. And most of these guys who send their kids to Yale are guys who cheat on their taxes. So I was offended they would say I was somehow less qualified morally than they are, considering what they do. And it was at that point I realised: 'I'll have to do something that's marginalised. They're not going to let me in (laughs). Fuck it! I'll sell drugs.'

2 'Be sure your sin will find you out'

It was poetic and maybe inevitable that it was Floyd who finally blew the whistle: the Mennonite kid, the one who was Lance's equal when it came to never-say-die toughness. What bothered Floyd wasn't the doping. What he hated - what his soul raged against - was unfairness. The abuse of power. The idea that Lance was purposely depriving Floyd of an opportunity to compete. That's all Floyd wanted, to compete . . . The whole investigation might have been avoided if only Lance had been able to be a friend to Floyd; to reach out, to smooth things over. But you might as well have asked Lance to ride to the moon. To Lance, friendship was unthinkable. Floyd was the enemy, and enemies must be crushed, period. This approach works with most people. But not with a tough Mennonite kid who can quote the King James Bible from memory, especially Numbers 32:23: 'Be sure your sin will find you out.'

The Secret Race

Tyler Hamilton & Daniel Coyle

PK: Tell me about Alex?

FL: Alex is French. She moved to the US when she was six and grew up in Connecticut. Her mother lives here and her dad is (now) in Paris. She has a good job in New York - has been there since she was in college - and she doesn't know anything about cycling which is perfect.

PK: How did you meet?

FL: It was around Christmas 2012, a corporate party. I was staying with Tiger at the time and teaching the guy throwing the party about cycling. His wife introduced us: "This is Floyd. He won the Tour de France." And Alex was like, "Whatever . . . Who cares?" - which was the right response (laughs). She didn't stay long, there was some other event she was going to, but we connected a few weeks later for dinner and I told her everything.

PK: Everything?

FL: It took about four hours. It's a long story, that's the problem, and there are some details that seem insignificant but if you take them away it changes the whole thing . . .

PK: Why would you tell her everything on a first date?

FL: Well, somebody was going to tell her: 'Hey! That guy's an asshole! Do you know what he did?' So I thought I might as well tell her my side before she made a judgement.

PK: How did she react?

FL: I don't think she was shocked. It was: "Man, that's a crazy story. You've either got an over-active imagination or it's true! (laughs)." And I think I'm pretty good at telling it now - the story is the story.

PK: How soon after was the second date?

FL: It was the night Lance was on Oprah (January 18, 2013). She had obviously heard of Lance, everyone has, he was a genuine celebrity, and said: "You can come over and watch it at my place." I thought: 'Okay, that ought to be entertaining.' But I was worried, really worried, that he was going to pull it off.

PK: What do you mean?

FL: Lance is a pro. I thought, 'If he's on his 'A' game, and has a plan, there isn't much Oprah can ask that he won't have an answer for.' And people loved the guy; all he had to do was be sensible and look sympathetic. I thought: 'I'm fucked. It's going to be a circle-jerk.' And we got like two minutes into it and (laughs): 'This is no problem at all.'

PK: You knew he was dead?

FL: Oh, crushed. That was it. He was never going to recover from that.

PK: When was the last time you had seen him before Oprah?

FL: Seen him?

PK: Yeah, physically been in his presence.

FL: The 2010 Tour of the Gila.

PK: So just before you blew the whistle?

FL: Yeah.

PK: What about after? Did he call you?

FL: No, he called other people . . . Tiger . . . Brent . . . I didn't actually see him again until I gave that deposition three or four years ago.

PK: This was the government lawsuit?

FL: Yeah. (On June 10, 2010, Landis filed a federal lawsuit against Armstrong under the False Claims Act and alleged - through the doping programme at US Postal - that Armstrong had defrauded the US government.)

PK: Where did the idea for that lawsuit come from? How did it begin?

FL: Paul Scott reached out to me after the story (Floyd's confessional emails) came out in the Wall St Journal. He's a very good lawyer and had some experience in cases involving corporations that defraud the government. "Are you interested in filing this suit?" he asked. And I thought: '(At the moment) I'm relying on people who don't necessarily have the same incentives as me. I don't know what Travis (the CEO of USADA, Travis Tygart) wants; I don't know what Novitzky (the Federal anti-doping investigator, Jeff Novitzky) wants.' So it was a way to have my own lawyer and some control of the case, at least until the government got involved. My motivation was: 'I'm going to put as much pressure on this guy as I can because I know he's going to fight.'

PK: Lance?

FL: Yeah, I know Lance. I know how he fights. This was going to be a god damn fight to the death and he didn't hold back: 'Well, now we know, this is all about money,' he says. That's how he sold it to the press.

PK: And what was it about?

FL: It was about forcing the truth out. It had nothing to do with money.

PK: Because that was the perception: 'Floyd's in this for the money.'

FL: Yeah, I mean he hired that Mark Fabiani guy, and some influential PR people and that was their message: 'Well, here he is. He filed a lawsuit. He wants $100m. This is all about money.' It was never going to be $100m, and they knew that, but they used it as a talking point and it was effective for a while.

PK: What about revenge?

FL: Sure, there was some revenge involved, that's not to say I wouldn't have done it anyway. I resented Lance for the way he treated me when I was racing and, yeah, that might have tipped the scales. But it wasn't purely that. I mean life's nuanced, it's rarely one thing. You could say, 'Well, that's the last straw', but what if the problem isn't the last straw? What if it's the whole fucking haystack! But yeah, revenge was part of it. The last straw for me was: 'I've got nothing left. I'm tired of fucking lying.' But he didn't help himself by being such an asshole, let's put it that way.

PK: What happens when you see him again? You mentioned the deposition?

FL: I had to give a deposition at this big law firm in New York. His lawyers were there and my lawyers were there and he didn't have to be there - and I'm sure his lawyers told him not to - but I walked in and there he was.

PK: Were you surprised?

FL: Not really. He probably thought it would intimidate me but he should know by now that I don't give a shit.

PK: What happened?

FL: Well, and I know this was his idea because his lawyers are smarter, he strategically set it up so he was sitting right behind the lawyer I would be talking to, so I had to look at him the whole time. And he just sat there, glaring at me.

PK: It was a glare?

FL: Oh yeah, you can tell when that guy is mad.

PK: The look?

FL: Yeah, it's evil, but the funny thing was . . . He was mad because in his deposition, which had happened previously, the government lawyers took up most of the time and he had to do it a second time for a couple of hours to answer questions from Paul, my lawyer. So I'm there most of the day and I'm giving my deposition and there's this debate between the lawyers over some point and Paul says: 'Well Floyd has to leave at 6.30 so don't waste an extra three hours.' And Lance hasn't said a thing for like, 12 hours, and isn't supposed to say a thing, but he looks at Paul and goes: "He'll stay until we're done!"

PK: (Laughs)

FL: Pure Lance: 'We'll do whatever the fuck we want. It doesn't matter what you say.' And the government lawyers are looking at him . . .

PK (laughs): That's incredible.

FL (laughs): He's such an asshole. He can't help himself. I think that's the moral of the whole story, he cannot help himself. I mean everyone thinks he was calculating, and he was calculating, but when it really matters he can't fucking help himself. And I could tell that even his own lawyers were . . . (stunned).

PK: When did you hear the case had been settled?

FL: There were multiple mediations and attempts to settle it over the years, so it was always pretty clear there was going to be a settlement of some kind. And the price kept coming down because he could afford to keep litigating, and keep waiting it out. Part of that was his pride; I imagine he attributes a lot of what happened to me, and I'm sure the thought of me having any of his money was just unliveable for him. (Under the terms of the settlement Floyd received 22 per cent of the $5m Armstrong paid the government. His legal fees, $1.6m, were also paid by Armstrong.)

PK: What was your initial reaction when you were informed it was settled?

FL: Mostly just relief.

PK: Mostly?

FL: Yeah.

PK: What else?

FL: Part of it was . . . I don't want to use the word disappointment, but there was disappointment (in the sense of): 'Is that it? After all that shit?' It just sort of ended with a whimper. I mean, not for him, because that's real money that he had to pay, but it was such a strange experience. After all that stress . . . a Grand Jury investigating me, trying to sleep at night . . . I mean there were times in the last year when I would have dropped the whole thing because it's bad energy, and it doesn't help your life. And honestly? I think he paid enough.

PK: You do?

FL: Yeah, maybe not relative to how much he gained but he certainly paid more than anyone else in terms of public ridicule and everything else.

PK: Do you think public ridicule affects someone like that?

FL: I think it does. I think that's the one thing he actually cares about, that's why he went so far out of his way to do what he did. He lives off people's admiration, and that can be a drug in itself, it's addictive. And he looks like he's paid enough; he doesn't look like a guy who has been sleeping well for the last five years.

PK: Really?

FL: There's anxiety on his face, you can see it. I don't wish the guy misery for the rest of his life, redemption should be available to people like him. Everyone likes to say that he's a complete sociopath, but he wouldn't look that beat-up if he was a sociopath and had no feelings.

PK: On what do you base that?

FL: Because I know him, and I know how his face looked when he was on top of the world and was happy. He's bitter, but then he's always been kind of bitter, that's what motivated him. But what I see now is something else. He looks beat up.

PK: Did you glean any of that from the settlement hearing?

FL: Yeah, that's what I'm referring to. He looked all right three years ago when he was taking those depositions but then it came down to the wire and he had to spend money and . . . I'm sure I added to it, I mean we're in a fucking mediation where he has to pay my legal bills so the guy's not going to be happy. But that's not what I mean, it just looks like something deeper. At this point I don't have any more animosity towards him.

PK: Really?

FL: Yeah, in fact I have some sympathy. I think he probably feels a lot like I did, and do now, that they took us down and didn't really try to fix the system. And they argued that they couldn't but they fucking know it. They know it. They could get rid of everybody (the complicit managers and officials) and treat them the way we were treated because they were in on it, and they benefited from it.

PK: I don't hear Lance saying any of this on his podcast?

FL: I think he's more reflective than he was . . . Look, I'm not defending him as a person. I don't like him. I'm not going to be his friend. I don't know if he'll ever really realise that it would be better to just accept responsibility for (what he did) and genuinely go and try and demonstrate that he's changed. Or if he's capable of that.

PK: That's not in his nature. That's not how he's made.

FL: Well, in that case it's on him if he never gets redemption, but I think at least it should be offered to him.

3 'This could go either way'

Mennonites believe that God's message shines most brightly through an unadorned surface. When Floyd was sixteen years old, his parents' message to him shone as clear as if it had been painted in bright white letters on the clean brick wall of the family house: If you continue competitive cycling, your soul will burn in hell for eternity.

Lance Armstrong's War

Daniel Coyle

PK: You're riding your bike again?

FL: Yeah, but not like before. I ride around a couple of times a week if it's sunny. I'm a fair-weather cyclist now.

PK: When did the simple act of riding a bike give you pleasure again?

FL: Mmmm . . . maybe last summer.

PK: Not before?

FL: Part of the issue was . . . initially when I came back and tried to ride I didn't really enjoy it. I wanted to race again (in 2009) because I remembered liking it, and I kept thinking: 'This is going to make me happy', but it made me feel worse. I was just miserable. I stopped for a long time and got out of shape, so I forced myself to do a couple of events last year - just fun rides. It gave me a reason to train and lose a little weight, and it took a while, but then it got to a point in the middle of summer where I was enjoying it again.

PK: What about watching racing? Watching the Tour? You went back in 2016?

FL: Yeah.

PK: And that was your first time back since you won in 2006?

FL: Yeah, since like three days after (when news of his positive test was leaked and he left the country).

PK: So exactly ten years?

FL: Yeah.

PK: Why?

FL: Well, Alex's dad is in Paris and (our) daughter has a French passport so she said: "Why don't we go along?"

PK: So nothing to do with the race?

FL: No, but it was on my mind: 'Do I want to go and see it?'

PK: Take me back to the day you arrive in Paris?

FL: We got there at about 11.0 in the morning. I hadn't been in Charles de Gaulle since I walked through that thing ten years before and was on the cover of every newspaper on the stands. And I think it must have been the same terminal because that was the only point where I felt some real anxiety about the trip. I walked out and . . . just the smell and look of the place. You go through those dumb little tunnels - I don't know who designed that thing - but there's nothing like it on earth, right? I thought: 'I can't turn around now, maybe I'll buy some whisky - that helped me last time on the way out!' (Laughs)

PK: So you're anxious?

FL: Yeah.

PK: What happens when you arrive at passport control?

FL: I knew he recognised me.

PK: You did?

FL: Yeah, I mean there's no one else named (Floyd Landis) on earth (laughs). And I'm in France. It wasn't ideal.

PK: Did he give you any sense that he knew?

FL: He looked at me, and there was about two seconds when I thought: 'This could go either way.' But he just gave me a little nod: 'Welcome back.'

PK: What about the race? You're there for the last day? The Champs Elysees stage?

FL: I didn't want to go anywhere near the finishing line and was down closer to the last turn where the (team) buses park. I stood there for a while and watched a lap or two but it wasn't really doing anything for me.

PK: You were standing in the crowd?

FL: Yeah, I didn't try to make anybody notice me, I just wanted to watch. I thought maybe I would reminisce a little and it would be a good feeling but there was nothing. I was numb. It didn't hurt to see it but I don't remember what it felt like, as if I've deleted that part of the story in my head.

PK: You didn't feel anything?

FL: No, I might have been watching a Formula 1 race: 'Oh! They're racing their cars, it's cool.' Or some movie that I'd watched 20 years ago.

PK: That's astonishing.

FL: Yeah, I don't know how that works. I really don't know. I thought for sure I would feel something but it didn't do anything for me. We went to Normandy where her grandmother lives and I rented a bike from one of those little stands. I'm pretty sure we started a Tour in Normandy with all of those rolling hills and I thought: 'It will be nice to feel the wind in my face and ride along the coast.' And it was nice in that way but I didn't . . . I couldn't remember how it felt. Nothing. It's gone. I guess that's how I dealt with it; I guess that's what kept me alive, because there are a couple of guys who have gone through this who didn't live. Maybe that's some mechanism? I mean it's been long enough, and it wouldn't kill me to remember, but I guess my brain just said: 'We don't need to go through that again. Once was enough.'

PK: What if I was to present you with a blank sheet of paper? What if you were offered the chance to live your life again? What would you do? What would it be? What would you change?

FL: I don't know. I really enjoyed riding my bike, for me it was a kind of therapy and a way for me to get to see the world. You get into cycling because it makes you feel good and racing is an enhanced version of that but what happened next was so bad. I'm ashamed that I did what I did but what should I have done? I guess I should have quit but I couldn't do that. I was a kid. It would have crushed me.

PK: To have quit?

FL: Yeah, I had spent all this time (trying to get to the top) and I was going to fucking do it. If I'd stood back and said: 'Hey Man! Everyone is on drugs.' It would have crushed me. I'd have told the truth but no one would have cared: 'Oh yeah, you're just a sore loser.' That's hard man.

PK: Tell me about it.

FL: Yeah, you lived it, at least I knew: 'When I tell the truth they're going to fucking listen!'

PK: Laughs.

FL: But it's a hard question because you think: 'If I knew what I know now I would make other decisions.' But the only way to know what you know now is to have lived through it, so it's sort of a pointless exercise.

PK: Sure.

FL: What I do know is that I have a lot more empathy now for people that go through public shaming and humiliation and how bad that can be. There's this weird fixation in this country with being famous now. I watch people on these reality TV shows and they think that just fame in itself is going to be rewarding, but a lot of them are not okay when it's over. And the problem with fame is that you can't undo it. So that's one thing I'd write on your piece of paper: 'Whatever I do, I am not going to have people know my name.' I would be perfectly happy to be anonymous.

PK: That's interesting.

FL: It's not rewarding to be famous. It seemed appealing at the time: 'Oh, this is going to be great. I'll be a star.' But it's not what it's (cracked up to be). I don't think there are any positives to being a star.

PK: Really?

FL: Because you don't have genuine interactions with people. They feel they know you because they've seen you on TV, and they're excited to meet you, but you don't know them, so most of the interactions are just fake and superficial. It has value if you like it, and you can certainly make money from it, but it's not for me. So I would delete that part if I could . . . actually, I'd prefer if you gave me a piece of paper that wasn't blank, that had everything on it, and I could just delete a few things. (Laughs)

PK: Okay.

FL: Just give me an eraser. How about that?

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

Sunday Indo Sport

The Left Wing: The problem with the Champions Cup, the Stephen Larkham effect and trouble in Welsh rugby

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport