Frankie Andreu responds to Armstrong's ban

One of the early casualties of the Lance Armstrong doping saga was former teammate Frankie Andreu, a professional from 1989 to 2000 and a member of the US Postal Service team's roster during Armstrong's first two Tour de France victories in 1999 and 2000.

Andreu, currently at Colorado's USA Pro Challenge as an analyst, spoke to Cyclingnews in Breckenridge prior to stage 5, the morning after Armstrong announced he wouldn't contest the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) charges, thus accepting a lifetime ban as well as forfeiture of his seven Tour de France titles.

"Lance fights everything so I was very surprised that he chose to not fight the charges," Andreu told Cyclingnews. "At the same time I'm really surprised that USADA has enough information to strip him pretty much of all his results. I never imagined that it would come to that."

In 1996, Betsy and Frankie Andreu were present in a hospital conference room where Armstrong, having just had treatment for cancer, is alleged to have admitted to his doctors to taking banned doping products. Ten years later in 2006, the pair were called to testify under oath at a civil suit between Armstrong and SCA Promotions, an underwriter who was refusing to pay a $5 million bonus for his sixth Tour victory because of allegations Armstrong had used banned substances in order to win.

The Andreus testified at the hearing that they heard Armstrong admit to taking a list of substances: growth hormone, cortisone, EPO, steroids and testosterone to his doctors. In the same case, Armstrong's primary doctor submitted an affidavit that he had never seen any evidence that Armstrong admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs, and Armstrong himself denied having ever made such an admission.

A New York Times article published in 2006 stated Armstrong had testified that Betsy Andreu lied because "she hates me" and that Frankie Andreu had lied because "he’s trying to back up his old lady."

In that same New York Times article, Frankie Andreu admitted to taking EPO in preparation for the 1999 Tour de France. His wife Betsy stated she blamed Armstrong for Frankie taking EPO, saying he "didn’t use EPO for himself, because as a domestique, he was never going to win that race. It was for Lance."

"This thing is so much larger than Betsy and I," Andreu told Cyclingnews, in reference to USADA's investigation of Armstrong. "I'm like a speck of sand in this investigation and obviously I think there's a lot of information out there and my main point is my wife and I never told a lie about the hospital room, there were other people in that room, and I want the information to come out to show that they covered it up and made us look like the bad guys."

Andreu had read Armstrong's statement in which the embattled Texan likened USADA's investigation to an "unconstitutional witch hunt", and Andreu was left unimpressed.

"His press release sounds like a broken record repeating the same lines we have already heard hundreds of times from him. He's been saying the same thing for years."

Andreu supports USADA's efforts to punish dopers, no matter their stature, and hopes this is indicative of a better future for the sport of professional cycling.

"I think it sends a pointed lesson to all the riders that the sport is changing and it's for the better," said Andreu. "If you've done things that are wrong then you're going to get caught.

"USADA has shown some true grit by not backing down from a popular and wealthy athlete and showing that clean sport is a right for every athlete. If Lance really wants to help his foundation and help people with cancer, he should admit to the past, apologize and move forward with a clear conscience."

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