Lance Armstrong Doping Controversy – Where Does the Truth Lie?

The Lance Armstrong doping controversy has heated up again after revelations by Tyler Hamilton on the CBS show, “60 Minutes.” Hamilton made allegations that Armstrong used doping products and performance-enhancing drugs while winning the Tour de France a record 7 consecutive times. Armstrong immediately denied the allegations.

Armstrong won seven consecutive Tours from 1999 to 2005. Since then, Armstrong has parlayed his fame to fight cancer through his Livestrong organization. His efforts to combat this disease are commendable. However, there is a dark shadow being cast over Armstrong which may seriously damage his reputation.

I have been interested in cycling and, in particular, the Tour de France, since 1980 when I watched TV broadcasts of the Tour while visiting Holland. I was captivated by the demands of the sport and the excitement each day brought as the Tour progressed. In 1988, while living in Holland for a period of time, I was able to follow the entire Tour on TV and radio. That year, Steve Bauer, a Canadian, performed very well and eventually placed fourth overall. Being Canadian, I followed Bauer’s career and, in time, watched Greg LeMond become the first American winner of the Tour in 1986. LeMond went on the win the Tour three times, winning again in 1989 and 1990.

Then a new American rider – Armstrong – arrived on the scene. I followed his career and cheered him on through all 7 Tour victories. However, allegations of doping began and continue to taint the professional sport of cycling. Several allegations were directed Armstrong’s way; each time, he denied ever doping. Often, he painted his accusers as liars without credibility. I began to wonder where the truth lay…

There is a lot of information in the public domain that can shed light on the issue as to whether Armstrong doped or not. The purpose of this blog is to try to connect the dots between the many bits and pieces of information to allow the public to come to a more informed opinion regarding the allegations against Armstrong. In particular, I intend to shed light on information which appears to be corroborated by two or more sources. I am not an investigative journalist seeking to uncover the facts; I am simply aiming to present the facts and/or allegations as reported in the mainstream media and which readily available to the general public.

Possible Armstrong Positive Test in 2001 Tour de Suisse

The first issue I will address is Armstrong’s alleged ‘suspicious’ test in the 2001 Tour de Suisse, since this has recently been in the news.

In May 2010, Floyd Landis, winner of the 2006 Tour de France until he tested positive for testosterone, finally came clean and admitted doping. Despite having denied doping for several years and launching court proceedings and appeals, he admitted he had previously lied when he denied doping.

Landis was a teammate of Armstrong on the U.S. Postal Service team from 2002 to 2004. He sent e-mails to several organizations involved in cycling and anti-doping. In his e-mails, Landis stated that Armstrong had told him he had tested positive for the blood-boosting drug Erythropoietin (EPO) while winning the 2001 Tour de Suisse.

Landis further alleged that Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong’s long-time director sportif, had a clandestine meeting with the Swiss anti-doping lab director, Martial Saugy, during which a financial deal was made to ‘make the positive test go away.’ Allegedly, the meeting was arranged with some assistance of Hein Verbruggen, the president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) from 1991 to 2005.

At the time Landis’ allegations came forth, all persons implicated, including Armstrong, denied the allegations and stated no such meeting took place.
In May 2002, Armstrong made a $25,000 donation to UCI. In 2005, Armstrong made a further $100,000 donation to UCI, though according to UCI president Pat McQuaid, Armstrong had initially pledged the $100,000 donation in 2002.

Armstrong denied the donations in 2010 after Landis made his allegations, but swore a declaration in 2006 admitting to a donation of $25,000 “to fund the fight against doping.” Both donations were later confirmed by UCI president Pat McQuaid in 2010.

As late as May 2011, Saugy denied he had met with Armstrong or Bruyneel as alleged. He reportedly acknowledged a meeting with Armstrong and Bruyneel in 2002, but claimed the subject of the meeting was a new type of testing procedure and not a positive test.

In May 2011, Tyler Hamilton, Armstrong’s teammate on the U.S. Postal Service team from 1998 to 2000, admitted to doping and made numerous allegations against Armstrong and others in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview. He also alleged Armstrong failed a test during the 2001 Tour de Suisse, providing some corroboration of Landis’ allegations.

David Howman, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, told CBS in 2011 that a meeting with an athlete or his entourage and the lab operators would have been inappropriate.

Associated Press reported on June 2, 2011 that Howman further confirmed “Saugy had talked to him about suspicious results from the 2001 Tour de Suisse and an ensuing meeting set up by UCI that included people Saugy “didn’t anticipate” would be there.

AP’s June 2011 article also reported that “the director of the Swiss anti-doping laboratory [referring to Saugy] informed federal authorities last fall that Lance Armstrong’s test results from the 2001 Tour de Suisse were “suspicious” and “consistent with EPO use.” The information was provided by an unidentified source with knowledge of the federal investigation.

Despite all the denials by the parties allegedly involved, two of Armstrong’s former teammates have alleged a failed test in the 2001 Tour de Suisse and a pay-off to cover it up.

Saugy, perhaps faced with Howman’s acknowledgement of his conversation with Saugy regarding the suspicious test results from the 2001 Tour de Suisse,  appears to have reversed course and admitted that a meeting was set up by UCI (implicating Verbruggen as the middleman). Further, it seems logical to assume that the people Saugy ‘didn’t anticipate” would be at the meeting were Bruyneel and Armstrong. This is consistent with Howman’s view that riders and their entourages should not be meeting with a lab operator.

While Armstrong denied or ‘forgot’ about his donations to UCI, the payments were confirmed by McQuaid. Apparently, McQuaid also confirmed that no other rider had ever made a donation similar to Armstrong’s. The fact the money was paid lends credence to the allegation that a pay-off was arranged.

Clearly, this story is still developing. Stay tuned for more developments…

 

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