Cyclist Andreu Talks About Performance Drugs

Former professional cyclist Frankie Andreu has admitted in a New York Times article that he used banned performance-enhancing drugs on the tour. Andreu says that he admitted to the drug use so that he could speak out against their use with a clear conscience. Steve Inskeep talks to Andreu about his admission.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Bicycle racing and doping are in the news again, but it's not the usual story of an elite cyclist testing positive and denying guilt. This time the story is about a longtime racer admitting performance-enhancing drug use.

Frankie Andreu told The New York Times that he used the banned oxygen-boosting substance EPO. He's 39 years old, and he's a former teammate of the retired cycling star Lance Armstrong.

Andreu says he used EPO in the run-up to the 1999 Tour de France, which is a time when he was helping Armstrong win the first of his seven Tour titles. And we've called Frankie Andreu this morning. Good morning.

Mr. FRANKIE ANDREU (Former Professional Cyclist): Good morning, how're you doing?

INSKEEP: I'm doing fine. Thanks for taking the call. Why did you admit using drugs?

Mr. ANDREU: Well, with everything that's been happening in the sport of cycling lately, and we've received a lot of phone calls over the last couple of years talking about the problems in cycling and the doping, and then there's certain riders that have been affected by it. And, you know, I've spoken a lot about cleaning up the sport and how you have to race clean. And, you know, it's hard to be able to speak about that knowing that I had made mistakes in my past.

And so, you know, I came out and admitted that I had used EPO before to kind of clear my conscience and be able to speak more firmly about the problems in cycling and be able to hopefully, you know, make a difference with some other people.

INSKEEP: How did the drugs help you?

Mr. ANDREU: It helps increase your oxygen-carrying capacity. And, you know, there was a time where - there was a limit where you couldn't get over 50 percent, and I didn't really test that barrier. That wasn't my objective, which was to become Superman. You know, in my eyes, it doesn't matter if you were taking two drops or if you drinking a gallon or whatever. It was still wrong either way.

INSKEEP: Mr. Andreu, Lance Armstrong, as you probably know, has talked about your admission to the Associated Press and said he thinks that the whole story about your drug use is a nasty attempt to link him to doping. Is there a connection between what you did and what Lance Armstrong may or may not have done?

Mr. ANDREU: No, the story was about myself and admitting to EPO so I could talk more clearly about the problems in doping with a clear conscience and be able to hopefully have other people, you know, perhaps stop taking something if they were taking it and race clean, or prevent anybody young from falling into the same trap.

The story - I never even spoke about Lance Armstrong in my interview with her.

INSKEEP: Do you have any information about Lance Armstrong's drug use?

Mr. ANDREU: You can talk to Lance about that. I don't - I'm not talking about Lance Armstrong. This has to do with me.

INSKEEP: Only about you?

Mr. ANDREU: This is only about me.

INSKEEP: Why make the admission now as opposed to last year or three years ago, or five years ago for that matter?

Mr. ANDREU: Well, good point. And while I was racing, you know, you're involved in the whole sport of cycling and no one talks about it and you don't know what anybody's doing. And, again, lately it's just been - there's been so much unraveling with the sport of cycling. It's been spiraling downhill and things have been just going worse and worse. That was the main part of my reason for saying that, you know, I took EPO in the past.

INSKEEP: Frankie Andreu, thanks very much for speaking with us this morning.

Mr. ANDREU: Okay, thanks.

INSKEEP: Retired bicycle racer Frankie Andreu has admitted to using a drug called E-P-O, or EPO.

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