USADA CEO Travis Tygart believes that the head of the WADA laboratory in Lausanne provided Lance Armstrong with the necessary information to avoid positive tests for EPO in the early part of the last decade.
Martial Saugy has already admitted to meeting with Armstrong and US Postal manager Johan Bruyneel to explain how the EPO test worked in 2001, a year after Armstrong returned a ‘suspect sample’ at the Tour de Suisse, which had been tested in Lausanne.
Speaking in an interview with Showtime’s 60 Minutes Sports programme on Wednesday evening, Tygart recalled meeting Saugy at a dinner in 2010 and discussing Armstrong’s sample from the 2001 Tour de Suisse.
“He [Saugy] sat beside me and said there are samples from Lance Armstrong that indicated EPO use. He also told us that he had been instructed by the UCI to meet Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel to explain the EPO testing process,” Tygart said.
“I asked him: ‘Did you give Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel the keys to beating the EPO test?’ And he nodded his head yes. He explained it to the two of them. As far as I know, it’s unprecedented. It’s totally inappropriate to bring in an athlete with a suspicious test and explain to them how the EPO test works.”
Swiss Cycling president Richard Chassot, meanwhile, moved to defend the reputation of Saugy and the Lausanne laboratory. “In many cases, notably the Landis affair, they haven’t been afraid to put themselves in danger,” Chassot told 20min.ch. “Martial Saugy is a good and serious guy, who has often taken a strong position against doping.
“Regarding the samples tested, there are only numbers on a tube. At the laboratory in Lausanne, they couldn’t say to themselves, ‘This is Armstrong’s sample, he can’t be positive.’ If something happened, it’s at UCI level.”
Elsewhere in the 60 Minutes interview, Tygart confirmed that USADA had rejected an offer of a donation from Armstrong in excess of $150,000 in 2004, saying: “It was a clear conflict of interest for USADA and we had no hesitation in rejecting that offer.”
Tygart also discussed the responsibilities of heading up USADA’s investigation into doping at Armstrong’s US Postal Service team, which continued after a federal investigation of the squad was shelved in February of last year. Tygart said that USADA had a duty to make full and correct use of the funding it received from the US government.
“We’re always concerned about the grant we get from the federal government,” Tygart said. “If we’re unwilling to take this case and help this sport move forward, then we’re here for naught. We should shut down. And if they want to shut us down for doing our job on behalf of clean athletes, for clean competition, then shut us down.”