By Tim Maloney, European Editor
When seven-time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong recently read about his former USPS teammate Frankie Andreu's confession to NY Times reporter Juliet Macur that he took EPO in the 1999 Tour, Armstrong characterized the report as "distorted sensationalism". He said that the statements were contrary to Andreu's sworn testimony in the arbitration case with SCA Promotions, where Andreu said he had never taken any banned substances.
On Wednesday, Armstrong told Macur that the reason for his success was about his natural talent for cycling. "Some of us are born with 4 cylinders, and some of us are born with 12," Armstrong explained. Now almost 35 years-old, Armstrong, was the one of the youngest ever world professional road cycling champions, a title he won in 1993, a month shy of his 22nd birthday.
In the same NY Times interview, Armstrong's bête noire, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency Richard Pound, said of the revelations by Andreu and an unnamed rider, "They were on the same team, (as Armstrong) weren't they? I think you have to draw one conclusion from that. It certainly indicates that there were a whole bunch of people around him using drugs. It doesn't prove that he did anything, but you look all around him and everyone else is doing it, so what should you think?"
Armstrong defused Pound's conclusions by saying "(Pound is) kind of a blowhard. It's a long, long running feud (with Pound). He has nothing good to say about me, and I don't have many good things to say about him."
On the other side, Steve Johnson, the chief executive of USA Cycling, commended Andreu - a member of the USA Cycling board - for his admission. "The truth is the best policy," Johnson told the NY Times. "That's what my mother always said."
But Johnson's boss Jim Ochowicz, the president of the USA Cycling Board of Directors, is not on the same page as his CEO regarding Andreu's admissions. Ochowicz said USA Cycling didn't condone the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and Ochowicz also told the NY Times that he saw things differently than Andreu regarding whether pro cycling had secrets and doping was widespread. "It's not (USA Cycling's) position that people are hiding the facts (about doping)," explained Ochowicz, but then conceded "Frankie certainly is entitled to his opinion."
UCI president Pat McQuaid stated that he was not sure of the point of Andreu's confession. McQuaid told the NY Times that Andreu's confession would have "no effect at all" and also declared that "It's debatable whether the lead rider (in a team) is any faster because his teammates are doping. Most of the doping is done individually, and it doesn't mean anyone else on the team would know."
Both USA Cycling's Ochowicz and the UCI McQuaid's comments seem to ignore the recent legacy of hidden, organized team doping in the sport of cycling like the Festina affair in 1998 and Operacion Puerto this year.