Lance Armstrong denies fresh doping claims made by Tyler Hamilton

May 23rd, 2011 by Staff – The former US cycling professional Tyler Hamilton has made a fresh claim that the seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong not only used performance-enhancing drugs but had actually given a positive test, in 2001. It has always been a cornerstone of Armstrong’s defence against such charges that he had never tested positive during his career. But this was flatly contradicted by his former US Postal team-mate Hamilton in an interview webcast by CBS’s 60 Minutes programme on Sunday.

“I know he’s had a positive test before,” Hamilton said. “For EPO [at the] Tour of Switzerland, 2001.” Asked by the CBS reporter Scott Pelley how this alleged positive test had not been made public and no action taken, Hamilton explained: “People took care of it. I don’t know all the exact details but I know that Lance’s people and the people from the other side, the governing body of the sport [the UCI], figured out a way to make it go away.”

The same allegation of a cover-up at the Tour de Suisse, shortly before Armstrong won his third Tour de France, was made last year by another former team-mate of Armstrong’s, Floyd Landis, among a series of claims about Armstrong and the US Postal team’s use of banned substances and blood-doping. Armstrong, his team manager Johan Bruyneel and the UCI have all denied a conspiracy to suppress a positive test; they have also denied any ulterior motive for the donations by Armstrong of $25,000 and a subsequent $100,000, ostensibly to assist the UCI’s anti-doping work. Earlier this month, the UCI and its former president, Hein Verbruggen, lodged a legal action against Landis in a Swiss court.

Armstrong’s lawyer, Mark Fabiani, released a statement on Sunday refuting the claims made against him on 60 Minutes. “Throughout this entire process, CBS has demonstrated a serious lack of journalistic fairness and has elevated sensationalism over responsibility,” Fabiani said. “CBS chose to rely on dubious sources while completely ignoring Lance’s nearly 500 clean tests and the hundreds of former team mates and competitors who would have spoken about his work ethic and talent.”

Hamilton’s testimony in the matter, however, may be more difficult for the UCI to dismiss. Pelley reported that CBS had seen a sworn statement obtained by the FBI from the director of the Swiss laboratory that had conducted the testing for the 2001 Tour de Suisse.

In that statement, the lab director said that a UCI official had brokered a meeting between himself and Armstrong and Bruyneel – a highly irregular matter. Asked by Pelley how he knew of the affair, Hamilton answered: “He [Armstrong] told me.” He said that Armstrong seemed supremely confident there would be no consequences of the positive test: “He was so relaxed about it and he kind of said it off the cuff and laughed it off.”

The UCI under Verbruggen was frequently criticised for dragging its feet on effective anti-doping measures, despite the fact that the blood-doping agent EPO had been a known problem in the pro peloton throughout the 1990s. But it would be a serious blow to the credibility of the sport’s international governing body if it were proved that it had connived with a rider and his manager to suppress a positive drug test. It would also undermine the position of the UCI’s current president, Pat McQuaid, who has strongly backed his predecessor on the issue.

McQuaid addressed the issue last year at length. “The UCI takes seriously the accusation that [it] took a bribe to hide the positive test of Lance Armstrong in 2001,” McQuaid said.

“We’ve contacted the labs involved for testing for EPOat that time. I have a statement here from those labs that support what I say.

“In relation to Lausanne, there were 18 positive tests for EPO for the UCI, controlled by this lab between 2001 and 2003: six in 2001, four in 2002 and eight in 2003. All analysis was sent to IOC and the Swiss Olympic authority

“I also have a letter from Wada that states from January 2004, every positive result for UCI also went to the Wada. I also have a report from the Tour de Suisse from 2001 which states that there was no doping case in 2001.

“All this information supports what the UCI has always stated: That there is no way that the UCI or its former president Hein Verbruggen could have accepted a bribe. It’s just not possible.”

Responding to Thursday’s allegations of doping against Armstrong, his lawyer, Mark Fabiani, ran the same argument against Hamilton as was used last year against Landis – that both are motivated by “greed and a hunger for publicity” to maximise book deals. However, Hamilton said on 60 Minutes that he had decided to come clean after being served a subpoena in June 2010 to come before the grand jury that is hearing evidence in the federal investigation led by Geoff Novitzky. As the food and drug administration, the FBI and US department of justice investigate the case, witnesses are called to testify under oath before the grand jury, which will eventually decide if there are sufficient grounds for a prosecution for fraud of Armstrong and other associates of the US Postal team.

If Hamilton’s performance as a penitent sinner on 60 Minutes needed enhancing, that help already came. On Friday, the Associated Press reported that another former team-mate of Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, who, unlike Hamilton, has not tested positive for a banned substance and is still a professional rider with the BMC squad, had given evidence to the grand jury also implicating Armstrong in doping. Hincapie denied, via Twitter, that he had spoken to 60 Minutes; the CBS webcast on Sunday evening repeated the AP story, but shed no further light on its source.

Hamilton told 60 Minutes that having to confess to doping throughout his career to his family had been “brutal”, but that it had been irresistible at the time as “part of the culture of the sport”. He said he had seen supplies of EPO in Armstrong’s refrigerator and had witnessed him injecting the substance “a couple of times”. Hamilton also claimed that Armstrong had himself administered drops of Andriol, an oral form of the banned steroid testosterone, to Hamilton on one occasion after a race.

These practices, Hamilton alleged, were regulated by medical staff on the US Postal team, and encouraged by the management. Favoured riders were even given special white lunch bags, Hamilton said, which contained doping products – he said he actually felt privileged when he became one of the white lunch bag set. Riders were carefully coached on how to dose themselves to avoid detection in tests, and used code words and “secret phones” – mobiles not registered in their names – when communicating about supply and transfer of doping products. Team parlance for EPO, Hamilton said, was “Poe” or “Edgar Allan Poe”. Armstrong has always denied ever taking performance enhancing drugs.

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