"It was so painful that I couldn't tell anybody, and I was quite self-destructive," LeMond told the two. "I would have preferred to kill myself before I told my wife."
Starting about six years ago, at the same time that his public comments about Armstrong were keeping him in the headlines, LeMond's personal life was beginning to unravel, triggered by his son Geoffrey's deepening depression. The oldest of LeMond's three children, Geoffrey had been traumatized as a toddler when his father was shot, and it didn't help that LeMond traveled constantly. "His dad was gone 200 days a year," Kathy tells me. "He would just sob."
"I'm so glad I'm not a professional cyclist anymore, because it's incredibly selfish," LeMond says when we're back at the house. "You've got everyone around you supporting you and propping your ego up."
The only thing worse is when all that ends and the bottom drops out. As he watched his son going in and out of treatment facilities, LeMond could feel his own secret rising to the surface. It culminated on his son's 18th birthday, in 2002, when Geoffrey showed up late to a celebratory dinner and a family confrontation ensued. "That was only the beginning," Geoffrey says now. "I hated them for a long time."
"I wished I could tell him I didn't have this magical childhood," LeMond tells me. "If he knew the suffering I had done internally, he would think differently. But I couldn't tell him."
One night, with the help of a bottle of scotch, LeMond tried to tell Kathy about his abuse, but it was no use. "I'll tell you on my deathbed," he mumbled as he passed out. Six weeks later he took off to Arizona with another woman. "Our whole family was on [the antidepressant] Celexa," LeMond tells me, breaking into sobs. "I couldn't console my son. Instead of giving him the care he needed, I tried to run." He came back and finally told Kathy what had been done to him, three decades before; the thing that haunted him, that kept him running.
It happened to LeMond, as it so often does, at the hands of someone he knew well. In his case it was a man named Ron, a trusted family friend. When LeMond was about eight years old, Ron started taking him skiing and camping in the mountains. "He was kind of like a Boy Scout counselor," LeMond says of Ron, who was considerably older than him. "If you think about pedophiles, they're all that type."
When Greg got a little older, Ron started showing him pornographic magazines and talking about sexual things. The young boy got aroused, and Ron took advantage of him. "He waited until I was just at the right stage of development," LeMond says now. He can't remember whether the abuse continued for three months or a year and three months; he just tried to shut it out.
For decades the secret ate at him. Even as he stood on the Tour de France podium in 1986, shaking hands with Paris mayor Jacques Chirac, he says, he wondered if Ron was out there somewhere, ready to tell the world and embarrass him.
A year ago, everyone with a television found out that Greg LeMond had been sexually abused, thanks to a bizarre incident at the Floyd Landis arbitration hearing. Landis, the 2006 Tour de France winner, had tested positive for testosterone during the Tour and stood to be stripped of his victory if found guilty. LeMond had been called to testify for USADA, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, about a call Landis had made to him a few days after the offending urine sample. Earlier, LeMond had told a French newspaper, "If he is confirmed positive, I hope he has the courage to tell the truth. I hope that he won't do what another American did: deny, deny, deny."
Landis was either perturbed about LeMond's comments (says Landis) or seeking the older rider's advice (says LeMond). According to LeMond, he urged Landis – if he had used drugs – to own up to it. Better to confront the truth than have it eat at you from inside. "It's the defense mechanism of the lie that poisons you," he told Landis. To illustrate the point, LeMond told him about the secret he'd kept for many years.
"What good would it do?" Landis replied, according to LeMond. "Everybody would hate me. I would destroy all my friends."
What good would it do? That struck LeMond as a tacit admission. And the conversation didn't stay private for very long. When a Canadian reporter called Landis, wondering if he'd "admitted" drug use to LeMond, Landis hit the roof. On a cycling website he posted a message saying, in part, "Unfortunately, the facts that he divulged to me in the hour which he spoke...would damage his character severely and I would rather not do what has been done to me. However, if he ever opens his mouth again and the word Floyd comes out, I will tell you all some things that you will wish you didn't know...."
In fact LeMond hadn't told the reporter about the call; a friend of his wife's had. But when USADA asked him to testify at Landis's hearing, LeMond agreed, he says, only after Landis rejected an alleged offer from USADA to fink on his former teammate, Armstrong, in exchange for a lesser sanction. (It was a rough month; LeMond's mother was in a coma, dying of liver disease, and he hadn't spoken to his parents in four years, since he'd revealed his abuse to them. "I had a lot of questions I wanted answered, and it went to a shame-based reaction," he says. "I never got to talk to my mom again.")
The night before the Landis hearing, LeMond's phone rang. A strange voice was on the other line, claiming to be his "uncle" – his abuser. "I'm gonna be there tomorrow," the man said, "and we can talk about how we used to hide your weenie."
During his testimony the next day, LeMond held up his phone, revealing the incoming call log. Several present immediately recognized that the call had come from a phone belonging to Will Geoghegan, Landis's friend and business manager. Landis's lawyer Maurice Suh wheeled around and faced Geoghegan. "You're fired!" he spat.
Landis was convicted and stripped of his Tour title, and although the arbitration panel stated that LeMond's testimony had nothing to do with its decision, the incident sealed Landis's fate in the court of public opinion. Sports columnists and commentators who once summoned sympathy for Landis now wrote him off as an unworthy cheat, one who had violated the ultimate taboo. As even Armstrong says, "Man, you don't wish that on your worst enemy."