Feature: France television alleges positives for Armstrong retests, also that ex-wife testified
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Sunday, September 02, 2012

Feature: France television alleges positives for Armstrong retests, also that ex-wife testified

by Shane Stokes at 8:50 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Kristin Armstrong, George Hincapie and others said to have given evidence

Stade 2More details of USADA’s case against Lance Armstrong has emerged as a result of a broadcast on France 2 television, with the Stade 2 programme claiming that investigators have positive tests to back up accusations that he doped during his career.

“We can reveal that Tygart has in his possession reanalysed samples which are finally positive,” said France 2 reporter Nicolas Geay, who travelled to the United States and Canada last week in the making of the programme.

The Frenchman was referring to US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart, who has led the investigation into the rider and his former US Postal Service team.

Geay said that samples from previous races – presumably the Tour de France – were re-examined and that evidence of doping has emerged. Neither the timeframe nor the substances in question were mentioned on the show.

In 2005 l’Equipe reported that retests of Armstrong’s samples from 1999 were positive for EPO. A test for the banned substance did not exist when Armstrong won his first Tour, and so no such examination was carried out after the race.

The UCI did not act on the positives in 2005, saying that normal protocols were not followed.

The French Anti Doping Agency AFLD is thought to have cooperated with USADA and Federal authorities during their respective investigations, with AFLD lab director Francoise Lasne and testing director Jean-Pierre Verdy reported as being interviewed in the autumn of 2010.

In September of that year, the former agency head Pierre Bordry promised that the AFLD would co-operate fully if requested. "If the U.S. attorneys and the U.S. Agency ask us for something in the context of a judicial mutual assistance, we will of course do so,” he said.

That sentiment was echoed on November 16th 2010 by an unnamed AFLD official, who said that the agency would share "everything we know, everything we have, in the fridges, in the freezers, everything, everywhere.” He added that they are prepared to answer "everything that they [the investigators – ed.] ask.”

Armstrong’s samples were tested when he won the Tours, but those examinations were of limited effectiveness for a number of reasons. Firstly, no EPO test existed prior to the 2000 Olympics, and could be beaten anyway after that point through timed microdosing [injecting tiny amounts of the drug directly into a vein] or the use of a protease masking agent.

Secondly, to this day there is no test for autologous blood transfusions; injections of an athlete’s own stored blood. Thirdly, there is often a time lag between the new introduction of a new doping agent and its detection. According to Armstrong’s former team-mate Tyler Hamilton, the Texan’s use of Michele Ferrari as his doctor meant that he had the very latest and least detectable products.

He said that he was always “two years ahead of what everybody else was doing,” as a result.

“If you were careful and paid attention,” writes Hamilton, “you could dope and be 99 percent certain that you would not get caught Ferrari received a lifetime ban from USADA this summer after he did not contest charges against him. Over the past two decades, the Italian has built up a reputation as the most advanced doctor in this area of the sport. The US Postal Service team was previously claimed to have paid him a huge retainer to ensure he didn’t work with other competitors, thus handing them an advantage in this area,

The implication is that it was far from a level playing field, even if other teams were also doping.

Long list of witnesses:

The Stade 2 programme also made further claims. It echoed recent reports that Armstrong’s former fiancée Sheryl Crow cooperated with the investigation, but also said that his ex-wife Kristin Armstrong has provided evidence.

Both testimonies are expected to be part of USADA’s dossier of evidence, which also includes testimonies of approximately ten of Armstrong’s former team-mates.

Today’s programme said that these witnesses include Floyd Landis, Jonathan Vaughters, Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde and George Hincapie, the only rider to back Armstrong during his previously-successful seven Tours.

His testimony is expected to carry considerable weight as he is highly regarded within the peloton and also with fans. He retired in August and refused to confirm or deny testifying.

Another two likely to be witnesses are Tyler Hamilton and Betsy Andreu. The first is another ex-teammate, and has penned an account of his career with explosive details. Entitled ‘The Secret Race” and released on September 5th, it refers to Armstrong’s work with Ferrari and said that the Italian gave specific advice about how to appear clean.

It said one tactic was for Armstrong to sleep at altitude and microdose EPO in order to be as strong as possible without running afoul of controls.

The book also repeats suggestions about an alleged cover-up after a positive test for EPO in 2001. “Don't worry, I will meet the UCI, everything is under control,” it quotes Hamilton as saying that is what Armstrong told him at the time. The UCI denies any shielding took place.

As for Andreu, the wife of former USPS rider Frankie Andreu and someone who previously testified against Amstrong in the SCA Promotions case, she told Stade 2 she believed there is a likely reason why the USADA case has progressed further than the now-stalled Federal investigation.

“It is believed it was…absolutely political,” she said of its unexpected halting. “That is why Lance Armstrong hired politically-connected lawyers.

“USADA is bipartisan, neither democrat or republican,” she continued. “I really believe that USADA is beholden to the truth and it doesn't matter if you are from the right or the left [politically].”

The Agency was not available for comment after the programme, but it is understood to be set to release some of its evidence later this month to the UCI, to WADA and publicly. The issues of witnesses, positive tests and other factors may well become much clearer then.

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