By Frank James
Seven-time Tour de France cycling champion Lance Armstrong has denied accusations that he used banned performance enhancing drugs, charges made by his former U.S. Postal Service team member Floyd Landis.
Speaking to reporters in Visalia, Calif. before the fifth stage of Tour of California, Armstrong said: "It's our word against his word. I like our word."
He also said: "We have nothing to hide. We have nothing to run from. If anybody has any questions, I'd be more than happy to answer them."
As we reported earlier, after denying for years to racing officials and publicly that he had used banned substances even after lab tests indicated otherwise, Landis has now reversed himself, acknowledging what the testing showed.
Landis won the 2006 Tour de France but he was stripped of that victory after his lab tests came back positive for banned substances.
Landis made the admissions in e-mails he sent to U.S. and international cycling officials which the Wall Street Journal reporters got access to and first reported on.
In the e-mails, Landis not only made accusations about Armstrong but about other riders too.
The emails are particularly focused on American riders. Mr. Landis said in them that during his career, he and other American riders learned how to conduct blood transfusions, take the synthetic blood booster Erythropoietin, or EPO, and use steroids. Mr. Landis said he started using testosterone patches, then progressed to blood transfusions, EPO, and a liquid steroid taken orally.
In one of the emails, dated April 30 and addressed to Stephen Johnson, the president of USA Cycling, Mr. Landis said that Mr. Armstrong's longtime coach, Johan Bruyneel, introduced Mr. Landis to the use of steroid patches, blood doping and human growth hormone in 2002 and 2003, his first two years on the U.S. Postal Service team. He alleged Mr. Armstrong helped him understand the way the drugs worked. "He and I had lengthy discussions about it on our training rides during which time he also explained to me the evolution of EPO testing and how transfusions were now necessary due to the inconvenience of the new test," Mr. Landis claimed in the email. He claimed he was instructed by Mr. Bruyneel how to use synthetic EPO and steroids and how to carry out blood transfusions that doping officials wouldn't be able to detect. Mr. Bruyneel and Mr. Johnson could not be reached for comment.
In the same email, Mr. Landis wrote that after breaking his hip in 2003, he flew to Girona, Spain--a training hub for American riders--and had two half-liter units of blood extracted from his body in three-week intervals to be used later during the Tour de France. The extraction, Mr. Landis claimed, took place in Mr. Armstrong's apartment, where blood bags belonging to Mr. Armstrong and his then-teammate George Hincapie were kept in a refrigerator in Mr. Armstrong's closet. Mr. Landis said he was asked to check the temperature of the blood daily. According to Mr. Landis, Mr. Armstrong left for a few weeks and asked Mr. Landis to make sure the electricity didn't go off and ruin the blood. George Hincapie, through a spokesman, denied the allegations.
USA Today's GameOn blog raises a good question about Landis' response several years ago and then in the more recent e-mails: why did he spend millions of dollars on his defense that he didn't use banned substances when he had?
There are several questions that remain now that Floyd Landis has admitted his 2006 victory at the Tour de France was bogus and the product of performance-enhancing drugs. Among them, why did he spend an estimated $2 million attacking the results of a drug test he knew was correct?
Might that not be the most convincing sign that Landis was on drugs?
Or, perhaps, he went flying over his handlebars one time too many.