Armstrong investigation: 60 Minutes claims UCI put pressure on lab to cover up positive EPO test
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Monday, May 23, 2011

Armstrong investigation: 60 Minutes claims UCI put pressure on lab to cover up positive EPO test

by Shane Stokes at 3:59 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Lab director has testified to FBI about incident

Lance ArmstrongThe UCI is facing serious questions over its relationship with Lance Armstrong after the US TV programme 60 Minutes last night brought damaging new claims over suggestions that the rider failed a doping test during the 2001 Tour de Suisse.

According to the programme, the then-director of the lab analysing the tests said that the UCI put pressure on the laboratory to cover up the situation.

60 Minutes said that it had obtained a letter sent by the US Anti-Doping Agency USADA to the laboratory, which showed that the lab found initial results of a urine sample ‘suspicious and consistent with EPO use.’

The programme makers also said that the lab director had given a sworn statement to the FBI saying that a UCI representative ‘wanted the matter of the suspicious test to go no further.’

The lab director said that a meeting was held with team manager Johan Bruyneel and Armstrong at the UCI’s request. No positive test was ever announced from the race, which came weeks before the rider won the third of his seven consecutive Tours.

Had Armstrong been found guilty of using banned substances, he would have missed both the 2001 and 2002 Tours, serving a two year ban.

Echoing Landis’ accusation

The claims come one year after Floyd Landis said that Armstrong had told him that he had tested positive in the race, and that bribes were paid to the UCI for the matter to be settled.

The governing body strongly rejected Landis’ claims, with its current president Pat McQuaid categorically denying the incident ever took place. He said that it was impossible for tests to ‘disappear’ and that the UCI had gone back and re-examined results from the time, verifying that there were no test results which would fit the claims.

Yesterday’s programme puts the spotlight back on the matter, with another former team-mate of Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, saying that the incident happened.

“I know he has had a positive test before…for EPO. It was the Tour of Switzerland 2001. He told me,” he said.

“He was so relaxed about it, he kind of laughed it off. It helped me sort of stay relaxed, because obviously if he had a positive test [confirmed], the team was going to lose its sponsorship. I’m going to lose my job. Not only I am going to lose my job, then 50 to 60 other people are going to lost their jobs. I probably won’t get to do the Tour de France; there are a lot of consequences for a positive test.”

Asked by 60 Minutes what had happened, Hamilton was adamant about the event. “People took care of it,” he said. “I don't know all the exact details, but I know that Lance's people and the people from the other side, I believe from the governing body of the sport, figured out a way for it to go away. I was told this by Lance.”

The programme makers also spoke with David Howman, the Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency. He said that it would be highly unusual for such meetings to have taken place, and that if it happened, this in itself was a breach of normal protocol in anti-doping.

“You can’t have a situation where you have athletes going and having one-on-one conversations with labs, just for the mere perception that would be wrong,” he said. “We can’t have a situation where athletes get preferential treatment, preferential information, or even meetings of that nature.”

60 Minutes said that at the meeting, testing procedures were discussed with Armstrong and Bruyneel. Howman said that this information be very valuable to someone trying to beat the test.

“I’ve used the example of Marion Jones to exemplify that. She ran for many years, won many events, I think gave more than 160 samples for analysis and not once did she test positive.”

Jones denied doping for many years but finally admitted lying to federal investigators, and served time in prison.

About-turn for Hamilton

Hamilton also spent years denying doping but made a dramatic turn-around this week, telling the programme that he had used banned substances for the majority of his career. He said last night that the US Postal Service team had encouraged him to start doping.

Hamilton also said that he had seen Armstrong using banned substances and receiving blood transfusions, echoing Landis’ claims.

“I’m telling the truth. I’m telling the truth,” he insisted, saying that he expected a backlash. “I’m sure he’ll come out with accusations. I’m not perfect, I do have health issues that he’ll probably try to use as my reason for doing this. I do suffer with depression, and sometimes people use my depression as being off centre.”

“They call you kind of crazy. I’m not crazy, I just get sad…have little episodes of being sad. I love this sport and want to do what is best for the sport. I want to be involved in the sport for the rest of my life.

“For the short term future, I’m sure that cycling is going to go through some turbulence. But I guarantee in the long term, people will come back and thank me for doing this.”

Armstrong continues to deny doping.

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