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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Floyd Landis is No Whistleblower

By now, everyone has heard about the explosive charges made by Floyd Landis.

Lance Armstrong's RadioShack team has struck back at doping allegations made by Floyd Landis, Armstrong's former teammate who this week confessed to having used performance-enhancing substances throughout his career -- including the 2006 Tour de France he won on the road.

The RadioShack team posted a statement on its website and attached a lengthy series of e-mails written by Landis and his personal physician, Dr. Brent Kay, who is also the primary sponsor of his bike team, and sent to Armstrong; Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, whose company owns the ongoing Tour of California; and USA Cycling president Steve Johnson and the federation's lawyer, Steven Hess. The only responses included are Messick's. No correspondence from Armstrong was included in the postings.

Let's put to the side the veracity of Landis' charges, and assume, against all evidence, that they are true. Would this make Landis a whistle blower?

I dealt with a similar situation with my reporting on Michelle Malkin, Michael Gaynor, and Anita Moncrief. Anita Moncrief became the main source for the seven most explosive pages in Michelle Malkin's book, Culture of Corruption. In return, Malkin used the pages in her blog,, to prop up Moncrief. Included in Malkin's adoring manner toward Moncrief was Malkin's allusion to Anita Moncrief being a whistleblower.

Last June, I told you about the speech-squelching attempt by ACORN/Project Vote to silence one of its most potent critics — former Project Vote official-turned-whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

The problem with this description is that Anita Moncrief is no whistle blower. Anita Moncrief was an employee of ACORN affiliate Project Vote. During that time, she used a company credit card to run up almost $2000 of personal expenses. Project Vote caught her and fired her. After she was fired, Moncrief then accused Project Vote in a series of voting improprieties.

Now, let's look at a real whistle blower. Pat McDonough was working on a Chicago plumbing project when he noticed a series of trucks that appeared to be stalled and doing nothing on the project. He found out that these trucks were hired by the city to friends of the mayor and he went to the media. As a result of his exposure, what he discovered is now infamously known as the Hired Truck Scandal, one of Chicago's biggest scandals. In fact, McDonough isn't even mentioned in the Hired Truck Scandal's Wikipedia page. To this day, McDonough continues to earn his living as a plumber for the city of Chicago. By blowing the whistle on this corruption, he put himself in the direct crosshairs of those that write his paychecks. His career there is stalled and he also continues to be a champion of good government.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently had a piece on what motivates a whistleblower.

The most common of the themes, integrity (11 of 26 relators), was linked by some relators to their individual personality traits and strong ethical standards. One relator reasoned, "When I lodged my initial complaint with the company, I believed what we were doing was unethical and only technically illegal. This ethical transgression drove my decision. My peers could live with the implications of `doing 60 in a 55 mph zone' because it did indeed seem trivial. However, my personal betrayal . . . so filled me with shame that I could not live with this seemingly trivial violation" (Relator 25). The relators in this group felt that financial circumstances helped to subvert such ethical standards in their colleagues, saying that most colleagues were unwilling for personal or family reasons to jeopardize their jobs.

A slightly less common theme (7 of 26 relators) involved trying to prevent the fraudulent behavior from posing risks to public health. Most of the relators who described this type of motivation felt they had unique professional experiences or educational backgrounds that gave them a superior grasp of the negative public health implications of the illegal conduct. Some relators (7 of 26) characterized their action in reporting the fraud as emanating from a sense of duty to bring criminals to justice. Many of these relators were new employees who perceived themselves as being outside the fold in their companies.

In the case of both Landis and Moncrief, their motivations were far more personal and far less for the public good. The main difference, however, is this. A whistle blower sees corruption and reports it. They don't have time to worry about potential problems this will cause themselves. In the case of both Landis and Moncrief, they saw corruption and said nothing. They only reported on this corruption after harm was done to them. Does anyone really think that Landis would have reported on doping if he hadn't been caught himself? Does anyone really think that Moncrief would have reported on Project Vote corruption if she hadn't been caught stealing and fired? That's what Pat McDonough did. He reported on the corruption as soon as he saw it and at great peril to himself. That's not what Landis did at all. Instead, Landis, like Moncrief, waited until it was beneficial to themselves to report on the corruption.

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