Lance denies more doping allegations
Armstrong contends he's clean on eve of new book
Posted: Saturday June 16, 2007 2:08PM; Updated: Saturday June 16, 2007 5:18PM
Already battered by doping allegations, cycling stands to absorb another big blow next week with the publication of the latest book by Irish investigative journalist David Walsh. Two weeks before the start of the 2007 Tour de France, Random House will release From Lance To Landis, a follow-up of Walsh's 2004 book L.A. Confidentiel: Les Secrets de Lance Armstrong, which contained allegations that the seven-time Tour winner doped, but was never published in English. This latest book will be widely released in the U.S., and could further undermine Armstrong's contention that he was a clean champion.
In an exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated last week, Armstrong once again vehemently denied that he ever used performance-enhancing drugs. Over the past few months SI has examined documents from a lawsuit Armstrong filed against SCA Promotions, a company that covers large prizes and bonuses, for balking at paying him a $5 million bonus for winning his sixth straight Tour de France in 2004. (SCA, which said it wanted to investigate the doping allegations, settled the case, paying the original $5 million, plus $2.5 million in damages.)
In addition to poring over depositions from the case, SI recently spent time with Armstrong's former friend and teammate Frankie Andreu and his wife, Betsy, who have recounted some of the most serious allegations they have recently leveled against Armstrong.
Their most explosive claim involves an incident in a hospital conference room 11 years ago. In their respective depositions, both Betsy and Frankie testified (and later explained in detail to SI) that they witnessed Armstrong admit to doctors that he used five performance-enhancing drugs before he underwent cancer treatment in 1996.
On Oct. 27, 1996, the Andreus were among a half dozen of Armstrong's closest friends in a conference room at the Indiana University Hospital as doctors entered to ask important questions about the 25-year-old Armstrong's medical history. Betsy's inclination was to leave.
"Honestly, for me," she told SI, "it was more of a privacy thing, like talking to your doctor about hemorrhoids or something. I said, 'Frankie, let's go.' But Lance said, 'That's okay.'"
Everyone in the room stayed and, according to the Andreus, it was only after that exchange that the doctors began their inquires, leading up to the question: Have you ever taken performance-enhancing drugs?
"He was sitting down, holding onto his IV [stand] with his left hand," says Betsy Andreu, "and they asked him the question."
She says Armstrong looked straight down while ticking off five drugs: EPO, growth hormone, cortisone, steroids and testosterone.
"Once they asked that question and he came out with that answer, I was like, Oh, s---," says Frankie Andreu. "Because I knew what [Betsy] was hearing. I was thinking, Oh my God, the s------ going to hit the fan."
When asked about the story, Armstrong says that the Andreus recollections are "one hundred percent" fabricated. (No one else in the room has confirmed the Andreu's account.)
Frankie and Lance had been good friends since the early 1990s, when they were teammates on Motorola. After Armstrong's recovery, he and then-wife Kristin often dined with the Andreus.
The Andreus say they didn't want to testify in the SCA case. They refused to obey a subpoena issued by a Texas court, claiming it lacked jurisdiction. SCA promptly obtained an "ex parte" order, and had the subpoena issued in Michigan, where the Andreus live. "We went in and decided not to lie," Frankie told SI, "and all hell broke loose."
Asked what Andreu had to gain from lying, Armstrong claims that Betsy is motivated by "bitterness, jealousy and hatred." Members of Armstrong's inner circle point to a section of Betsy's testimony in the SCA case where, they contend, she expressed her "hatred" for him. Armstrong's attorney Tim Herman noted, in his cross examination of Betsy, that "one of the notes you provided to us had a notation on it by you, 'Why do I hate Lance?' Correct?"
Andreu explained that she was "going through some of the questions I believe you're going to ask me, and one of them is: 'Why do I hate Lance?' That's what it is. It's not me asking myself out loud 'Why do I hate Lance?' That's not what it is."
"Well," Herman replied, "there's a difference between 'Why do I hate Lance?' and 'Do I hate Lance?' You obviously hate Lance."
And so Team Armstrong has contended, ever since.
"That's the reason to fabricate the hospital visit," Armstrong told SI. "I don't hate anybody. That's not the way I roll."
What about Frankie? "He would lie, because he has to support her in some way," Armstrong said.
The depositions dredge up more than just that single disputed incident. To wit:
Betsy Andreu testified that she and Frankie were passengers in Armstrong's car when he pulled off the highway outside Milano in March 1999, so he could spend an hour in a van with Michele Ferrari, the notorious Italian doctor who once said, "EPO is not dangerous, it's the abuse that is. It's also dangerous to drink 10 liters of orange juice." (Armstrong says without apology that he consulted with Ferrari for years for advice on training, cadence and nutrition.)
Three-time Tour winner Greg Lemond, now a bitter enemy of Armstrong's, testified that he had a 2000 conversation with former U.S. Postal mechanic Julian DeVries, who told him about a three-week training camp in the Pyrenees where "the moment the riders were off their bikes they were on IVs," experimenting with a drug that is undetectable and out of their system in 48 hours.
According to the deposition transcripts, Lemond says that there was a "panic" in the U.S. Postal camp as team officials scrambled to get a backdated prescription after Armstrong tested positive for cortisone in the '99 Tour. (DeVries, under oath in the deposition, denies ever saying this. Armstrong contends he tested positive for the active ingredient "in a chamois cream, and the actual concentration in the urine was a thousandth of a percent -- something totally in line with a cream.")
Lemond also testified that he spoke on the phone after the '01 Tour with an angry Armstrong, who asked him, "You're telling me you never did EPO? Everybody does EPO."
Armstrong forcefully denies all these claims. "Say you cheated in '99, and got away with one," he told SI last week. "Remember, in 2000 there was not a test for EPO, and we clobbered everybody. Some would say the entire field was on EPO. But only one athlete, and only one team, was federally investigated in France, had all their samples confiscated and got them tested, by three separate laboratories. So, in 2001, you're saying to yourself, I'm not taking that chance again.
"Then how was it, in 2001, that I went faster? And in 2002 faster still.  was a bad year, but in '04 and '05, I never slowed down. If I cheated, How did I get away with it?"
When asked point-blank whether he was clean when he won all of his Tours, Armstrong told SI: "Absolutely. I won the Tour de France once, twice, seven times, because I was the most talented person in the field."
There are no smoking guns. There is just this unsettling body of circumstantial evidence which, with the publication of Walsh's book, is about to get bigger.