A firestorm has erupted over allegations on a U.S. television network’s report that seven-time Tour de France cycling champion Lance Armstrong used banned substances to achieve greatness.
Lance Armstrong won a record seven Tour de France cycling races from 1999 to 2005, achieving the unprecedented results after a remarkable recovery from cancer.
Through the years there have been accusations that Armstrong did not compete fairly in a sport that has been plagued by doping cheats. But the American has always emphasized the fact that he has never tested positive for a banned substance.
But after former teammate Tyler Hamilton appeared Sunday on the CBS television show 60 Minutes many doubts are surfacing. Hamilton, who admitted his own use of illegal substances, told the network he saw Armstrong use performance-enhancing drugs on several occasions.
"He took. We all took," said Hamilton. "[There is] really no difference between Lance Armstrong and, I would say, the majority of the peloton [large group of racing cyclists], you know. There was EPO (blood booster). There was testosterone. And I did see a transfusion, a blood transfusion.”
Hamilton claims team management encouraged riders to use performance-enhancing drugs.
"I remember seeing some of the stronger guys on the team getting handed these white lunch bags. So finally I, you know, started putting two and two together [realized what was going on], and you know basically they were doping products in those white lunch bags."
Hamilton added that Armstrong even personally gave him an oral performance-enhancing substance.
"He just squirted it into my mouth. He squirted it into a teammate’s mouth and then squirted it into his own mouth," said Hamilton. "Just a tiny amount, enough that it is not going to be detected the next day when you get drug tested."
Hamilton even told 60 Minutes that Armstrong told him he had tested positive for EPO during the 2001 Tour of Switzerland, but the International Cycling Union kept the results quiet so Armstrong could escape punishment.
Hamilton’s comments drew an immediate rebuke from Armstrong’s lawyer, Mark Fabiani, who said “the possibility of a cover-up is zero.”
The former president of cycling’s world governing body, Hein Verbruggen, said none of Armstrong’s doping control tests have ever been hidden, and he knew nothing about any “suspicious tests.”
Fabiani added that CBS “has demonstrated a serious lack of journalistic fairness and has elevated sensationalism over responsibility,” choosing “to rely on dubious sources while completely ignoring Lance’s nearly 500 clean tests.”
Armstrong, who retired from competitive cycling in February, declined to be interviewed by 60 Minutes. But on facts4lance.com, his publicist’s website, he accuses the network of “selective reliance on witnesses upon whom no reputable journalist would rely.”
Hamilton, knowing the International Olympic Committee could strip him of his 2004 Olympics cycling time trial gold medal for his admittance of doping, last week voluntarily gave back the medal.
The head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, has confirmed it has the medal. Tygart said the agency is continuing its ongoing investigation into the sport of cycling, but will not comment on the newest allegations against Armstrong. He added that “now is time for truth and for all those involved in cycling to embrace the effort to truly change the culture of the sport for the good.”