Martial Saugy, the current director of the renowned Swiss Anti-Doping laboratory in Lausanne, has confirmed that four of the urine samples taken at the 2001 Tour de Suisse were labeled "suspect" and that he later met with former US Postal sports director Johan Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong to discuss details of the early EPO test method. It is the first time Saugy has reacted publicly to last week's accusations made by Tyler Hamilton, according to which the UCI and the Swiss laboratory covered up "suspect" samples of the seven-time Tour de France winner.
Saugy, who was the lab's scientific director at the time, told Swiss newspaper Neue Züricher Zeitung that he remembered four "suspect" samples from the 2001 Tour de Suisse but did not know whether they belonged to Armstrong.
"They were taken at four different stages, so I don't know whether they were from four different riders or all of the same athlete," said Saugy. "But the tests were not covered up, and it is also not correct that they could have been interpreted as positive. They were suspect, and you wouldn't stand a chance at all with that sole argument in front of a court."
It was during the 2001 season that the first anti-doping test for EPO was introduced, and the scientific community was still arguing on the validity of the test. "The Paris laboratory of Chatenay-Malabry fixed the criteria for a positive test result," he continued. "An athlete was positive only if 80 percent of the signs typical for the use of synthetic EPO were found."
A sample was considered "suspect" when "it showed between 70 and 80 percent of the typical EPO parameters. That meant that the probability of doping was high. But because such a result can also be produced naturally, it was all about excluding false positives."
In 2002, the Paris laboratory finally determined a threshold of 85 percent for a positive test result for EPO. It was during the course of that year that Saugy met with the US Postal team management, "who wanted to know what it meant when I pointed at suspect samples. Shortly before that I had heard that there was suspicion about the 2001 samples being linked to Armstrong."
However, Saugy said that the meeting did not take place at the Swiss lab - as stated by Hamilton in the 60 Minutes TV show - but during a trip made to collect blood samples. "And it also wasn't about discussing a particular result or to cover up anything. I explained how the EPO test worked and why there were suspect samples as well as positive ones. This information was part of a lecture that I had been giving in various locations."
Armstrong's attorney Tim Herman, however, recently said in a statement that "neither Armstrong or Bruyneel have any recollection of meeting [Saugy] for any purpose at any time," and "Armstrong was never informed by anyone in 2001 or any other time about either a positive or 'suspicious' test".
Saugy has been cooperating with federal investigators, as well as with WADA and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency since September last year, according to the Washington Post. He is currently working to provide details about the "suspect" samples from 2001 to anti-doping authorities.