US Postal team allegedly sold bikes for doping program
While the federal investigation into Floyd Landis's allegations against Lance Armstrong and the former US Postal team continues, media attention surrounding the details of his time in the squad gathers momentum. The Wall Street Journal published new revelations of alleged doping practices early Saturday, just prior to the start of the Tour de France.
Several months ago Landis provided the publication with details of secret blood transfusions during the 2004 Tour de France, training camps in St Moritz with banned doctor Michele Ferrari, lavish parties featuring strippers in addition to the sale of team bikes to fund doping practices.
Landis also told the paper that after his ill-fated 2006 Tour de France campaign, Armstrong had advised him to deny taking performance-enhancing substances, while Garmin-Transitions boss and former US Postal rider Jonathan Vaughters had invited him to stay in New York to avoid the pressure cooker situation that had arisen, and told him he should 'come clean' about everything he had done.
Landis also revealed several situations where US Postal riders had transfused blood, namely at the 2004 edition of the Tour, which was convincingly won by Armstrong. The first instance allegedly took place in a hotel in Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat on July 12, the first rest day of that year's race.
According to Landis' account, staff members 'guarded' the hotel hallway, riders were told not to talk inside the room and elaborate measures had been taken to obscure the view of any possible hidden cameras.
While not hiding the fact he had taken a blood transfusion himself, Landis also alleged that he had seen members of the US Postal team partaking in the procedure in the room.
Armstrong and Team RadioShack manager (former US Postal team manager) Johan Bruyneel have constantly denied all of Landis' allegations, including those outlining doping during the 2004 Tour de France. While the Wall Street Journal said that some riders from the team have explained what they saw, others have vehemently denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs.
Landis also recalled a training camp that had taken place during 2002 in St Moritz, known by riders as a haunt of now-banned physician Dr Michele Ferrari. Over a period of weeks, the Italian would follow training rides with Armstrong and Landis and monitor the riders' performance before they went to the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré where they finished first and second respectively.
According to the Journal, Landis returned to St. Moritz at the behest of team manager Bruyneel, where he was given testosterone patches for recovery and had blood extracted - by Dr Ferrari - to be used at the Tour de France several weeks later. During that race Landis said he had one blood transfusion and received a $40,000 bonus for helping Armstrong win his fourth Tour. He was also offered a two-season, $200,000 per year contract.
The second instance, also detailed in e-mails sent out by Landis in May, recalled of US Postal doping at the Tour in 2004, when the team's bus stopped on a mountainside road, and while the driver appeared to be fixing a 'broken' engine riders lay on the bus' long benches - or in Armstrong's case, on its floor - and transfused blood, with the bags taped to the sides of the bus cabin.
Perhaps the most surprising new allegation revealed in the story details Landis discovering, following a request for a new bike after a problem with his own at Paris-Nice, that not all the team's Trek bikes were making their way to the squad members. Bruyneel allegedly revealed that the some 60 bikes not used by the squad were being sold to fund its doping program.
According to the Wall Street Journal, federal investigators called the company, which revealed that indeed bikes went missing and would be seen for sale on the internet. Trek's general counsel, Robert Burns, didn't provide details whether the company sought the purpose of the sale of its bikes.
Finally, Landis explained that he had undertaken a 'self-organised' doping program after leaving US Postal, culminating in his provisional victory at the 2006 Tour de France and subsequent rescinding of the win. He told the paper that he had approached then-Phonak team boss Andy Rihs about the program, although the Swiss businessman has denied that he knew of Landis' actions.
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