STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Former cycling champion Lance Armstrong conquered mountains to win the Tour de France seven times. Now, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has revealed a mountain of evidence against him. The agency known as USADA documents a sophisticated doping scheme and puts Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service teammates at the center of it, laying out the reason why Armstrong was banned for life from the sport and stripped of his Tour de France titles.
NPR'S Tom Goldman reports.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Even for the most jaded, those who say, Yeah, there's doping in cycling and the sun rises in the east, USADA's 200-page reasoned decision, as it's called, had some eyebrow-raising details. Armstrong's ex-wife Kristin, at Armstrong's request, allegedly wrapped banned cortisone pills in foil and handed them out to riders.
In 2000, Armstrong friend and teammate George Hincapie knew Armstrong had taken testosterone before a race. Hincapie said he texted Armstrong that drug testers were at the team hotel. Armstrong allegedly dropped out of the race so he wouldn't be tested.
There's also scientific data, lab test results, other documentation. Twenty-six people gave sworn testimony, including 11 former Armstrong teammates. One of them, Frankie Andreu, admitted back in 2006 that he had used the banned blood boosting drug EPO when he rode with Armstrong on U.S. Postal. But as Andreu Read the report yesterday, he says even he was surprised at how extensive the alleged doping was.
FRANKIE ANDREU: I mean I was on the tour team in '99 and 2000, and I had no idea there was a courier bringing in EPO and blood bags for Kevin Livingston, Tyler Hamilton and Lance Armstrong.
GOLDMAN: Andreu says he went through a range of emotions yesterday, including anger. The report documents Armstrong's alleged pressure on teammates to dope, and intimidation of those who didn't or who spoke against it. Andreu and his wife Betsy did just that in an arbitration case involving Armstrong back in the mid-2000. They were subpoenaed and testified about Armstrong's alleged doping. And paid for it, says Andreu.
ANDREU: I had teammates wouldn't look at me, wouldn't shake my hands, called a rat, called a traitor, my wife called a lot worse things by many other people. It was rough, you know? And it was hard making a living at the time.
GOLDMAN: Andreu says the report shows he and his wife weren't lying back then. The Armstrong camp, meanwhile, is resolute, as always, that none of the evidence has merit. A one-sided hatchet job, says Armstrong lawyer Tim Herman. But how easy is it to dismiss George Hincapie's testimony? He was the cyclist closest to Armstrong; he rode on all seven Tour de France-winning teams.
I read Herman a section of the report where Hincapie says before the 2005 tour, he asked Armstrong for EPO, and Armstrong gave him two vials. That's pretty direct.
TIM HERMAN: That is obviously direct. And I don't really have a response to that particular allegation, other than to say that Lance's non-equivocation, there hasn't been any change in that.
GOLDMAN: Meaning report or not, Armstrong still maintains he never doped, never failed the hundreds of drug tests in his career. Although Andreu points out that the riders who admit doping in the USADA report never failed a test either.
Armstrong may not be completely immune to the USADA case. Cycling's governing body, the UCI, has three weeks to pore over the evidence in the report and decide if it wants to appeal the USADA sanctions. If they hold up, and Armstrong is formally stripped of his titles, it could cost him millions that he might have to repay in two legal cases that initially went in his favor.
Tom Goldman, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.