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Armstrong's next analytical stumble would coincide with another career milestone, his first overall Tour victory, in 1999. Days after he had seized the yellow jersey by winning the prologue, Postal team staffers learned that Armstrong had tested positive for corticosteroids.
Emma O'Reilly, a soigneuse with the Postal team, had already been in situations that made her uncomfortable—disposing of Armstrong's used syringes, covering his needle marks with makeup, and retrieving pills in Spain to relay to Armstrong in France. She was giving Armstrong a massage when he and team officials decided how they would wriggle out of the positive corticosteroids test. "It was just a couple of staff members and myself in the room," says O'Reilly, who's now a massage therapist in England. "So they decided they actually needed to get a backdated prescription [from del Moral, for therapeutic use of a steroidal cream] and pretend it was something for saddle sores. [Cycling officials] accepted that, even though it breached protocol." Hincapie, Hamilton and Vaughters all told USADA that they believed the cover story to be a sham. Vaughters added that team members told him that Armstrong had in fact received a cortisone injection.
After O'Reilly shared her account with Walsh and The Sunday Times, Armstrong sued her and the paper for libel. (A settlement was reached, but O'Reilly paid no money.) "I did nothing but tell the truth, and got sued," O'Reilly says. "It was just his bully-boy tactics."
The 2002 USPS team was made up of like-minded riders.... Johan and I had spent the previous five years carefully identifying, recruiting and signing the kind of people we wanted to work with.
—Every Second Counts
Armstrong's Postal contract guaranteed him "extensive input into rider and staff composition," but that clause only hints at his power over his teammates. In 2002, after his fourth Tour title, Armstrong summoned Postal rider Christian Vande Velde to his apartment in Girona, Spain, for a meeting with Ferrari in attendance. Armstrong made clear that Vande Velde needed to more faithfully follow Ferrari's program, taking more drugs more often. "I was in the doghouse," Vande Velde's affidavit reads, "and the only way forward with Armstrong's team was to get fully on Dr. Ferrari's doping program."
Dave Zabriskie, who had joined the Postal team in 2001, testifies that at a meeting with Bruyneel and del Moral in Girona in 2003, Bruyneel broached the subject of doping with Zabriskie and teammate Michael Barry. Zabriskie at first balked. Having pursued cycling to help recover from the loss of his father, who died young from drug abuse, he had vowed to ride clean. But he soon found himself in Barry's apartment, where del Moral administered Zabriskie's first EPO injection. That night, back in his room, Zabriskie broke down in tears. But he did what he felt he had to do to fit in. One day on the Postal bus, he serenaded Bruyneel and teammates with a knockoff of Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze: "EPO all in my veins/Lately things just don't seem the same/Actin' funny, but I don't know why/'Scuse me while I pass this guy."
Growing up in a devout Mennonite family in Lancaster, Pa., Floyd Landis decided to become a cyclist, over his parents' objections, after watching Armstrong's first Tour win and reading It's Not About the Bike. A raw and powerful rider, Landis joined the Postal team in 2002. Before that year's Tour, Armstrong gave him testosterone patches; Ferrari, in Armstrong's European apartments, extracted blood to be reintroduced into Landis's body later in the race. Landis left in 2005 to lead his own team, and a year later he would win the Tour himself but be stripped of the title after testing positive for testosterone.
I've practically lived out of the same suitcase with George Hincapie.... He was true-blue, like a brother.
—Every Second Counts