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Former US Postal riders admit EPO use

By:
Jeff Jones and David Collins, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
Published:
September 12, 2006, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 20, 2009, 23:28 BST
Edition:
Latest Cycling News for September 12, 2006

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In an interview with the New York Times, two former riders with Lance Armstrong's 1999 US Postal team admitted that they took drugs to help prepare for the Tour de France that year. Frankie Andreu and one other rider, who wished to remain anonymous "because he said he did not want to jeopardize his job in cycling" said that they wanted to come clean because doping and its denial are damaging the sport.

"There are two levels of guys," Andreu told the NYT. "You got the guys that cheat and guys that are just trying to survive." Andreu didn't specify when he took EPO, but said it was only for certain races. The anonymous rider said that he did not take EPO during the Tour. "The environment was certainly one of, to be accepted, you had to use doping products," he said. "There was very high pressure to be one of the cool kids." Both riders said that they never saw Armstrong using illegal performance enhancing substances.

Andreu said he was introduced to drugs in 1995 while he was riding for Motorola, where Lance Armstrong was also a rider. Another former Motorola rider, New Zealander Steven Swart, admitted in L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong to taking EPO while on that team. The team's doctor, Massimo Testa, told the NYT that he educated the riders that asked him about EPO but did not encourage them to use it. "If you want to use a gun, you had better use a manual, rather than to ask the guy on the street how to use it," he said. "I cannot rule out that someone did it."

In recent years, other higher profile riders who raced in Armstrong's team have been involved in drug scandals. Tyler Hamilton, Roberto Heras and Floyd Landis have all tested positive for banned substances, although none of them did so while on Armstrong's team.

Lance Armstrong has always denied using performance enhancing drugs, amidst numerous lawsuits and allegations. French newspaper L'Equipe alleged that in 1999, Armstrong took EPO during the Tour de France, on the basis of recent tests carried out on his frozen urine samples. However, an independent investigation started by the UCI into those allegations found that there wasn't enough sound evidence to convict Armstrong of drug use in 1999.

Armstrong and Tailwind Sports also won a lawsuit against insurance company SCA Promotions, which refused to pay him a $5 million bonus after his sixth Tour de France win in 2004, based on the allegations that he may have cheated. During the hearings, Andreu, his wife Betsy, and others testified that Armstrong told doctors that he had used drugs prior to getting cancer in 1996. However, that testimony was not considered strong enough by the case's arbitrators, who ordered SCA to pay Armstrong the $5 million, plus $181,000 in interest and an additional $2.5 million in damages.

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