Tour champ's attorney rejects allegations, cites medical records
Two French magazine stories slated for distribution this weekend charge that seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong allegedly admitted taking banned doping products after being diagnosed with cancer. The stories are based on evidence given under oath to a court in Dallas in late 2005 and early 2006.
The charges appear in Saturday’s edition of the French daily Le Monde and in this weekend’s edition of L’Equipe magazine.
Armstrong’s attorney strongly denied the claim, calling it “absurd,” and gave The Associated Press a copy of an affidavit from one of the lead doctors who treated Armstrong’s testicular cancer.
According to former friends of the American cyclist, Armstrong, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in October of 1996, allegedly told a doctor in Indiana University Medical Center later that month, after undergoing brain surgery, that he had previously taken several banned substances, including EPO, testosterone, growth hormones and cortisone.
The magazine stories are based on evidence given under oath in a Dallas court by Betsy Andreu, wife of Frankie Andreu, a former friend and teammate of Armstrong, who claim they were both present when the cyclist is said to have discussed doping with the doctor. The incident was originally described in the 2004 book, “L.A. Confidential,” by Sunday Times of London sports reporter David Walsh and former L’Equipe cycling writer Pierre Ballister. Testimony by both Andreus is consistent with Walsh’s description of the hospital conversation.
Frankie Andreu made the same statement in a late-2005 deposition, according to documents acquired by VeloNews. Both Andreus previously told the same story during an arbitration hearing between Armstrong and his insurance company SCA Promotions. Armstrong sued SCA after the company declined to make a $5 million payment to the cyclist after he won his sixth Tour de France. The company indicated a reluctance to make the payment after doping allegations were raised in Walsh’s 2004 book. According to sources near the case, a settlement was reached after the court indicated that the SCA contract contained no provision to negate the payment, even if cheating had occurred.
Betsy Andreu testified that the doctor asked Armstrong whether he had ever taken doping products, and that the cyclist replied, “Yes.”
“He asks which ones. And Lance replies, ”EPO, growth hormones, cortisone, steroids, testosterone,’”‘ Betsy Andreu said in sworn testimony in January.
Armstrong’s attorney, Tim Herman, rejected the Andreus’ charges.
“There were probably 10 people in the room. Betsy was apparently the only one that recalls this alleged incident,” Herman said, adding that he has 280 pages of medical records from Indiana University Medical Center that refute the allegations.
Armstrong’s doctors repeatedly asked him during his treatment about substances he may have taken and Armstrong answered only that he occasionally drank beer, Herman said.
Another Armstrong friend, Oakley representative Stephanie McIlvain, who was also present at the meeting with the doctor in 1996, denied having heard Armstrong say that he took doping products.
And in a sworn affidavit, Dr. Craig Nichols – one of the doctors treating Armstrong at Indiana University Medical Center – said he and other medical personnel visited with Armstrong that day about his medical history before he started chemotherapy, and no such admission was ever made in his presence.
Now the chair of hematology-oncology at Oregon Health and Sciences University, Nichols said that Armstrong “never admitted, suggested or indicated that he has ever taken performance-enhancing drugs. Had this been disclosed to me, I would have recorded it, or been aware of it, as a pertinent aspect of Lance Armstrong’s past medical history as I always do.”
“Had I been present at any such ‘confession,’ I would most certainly have vividly recalled the fact,” Nichols, a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, continued. “I would have recorded such a confession as a matter of form, as indeed, would have my colleagues. None was recorded.”
“Though doctors are under a professional obligation to record all matters regarding a patient’s medical history in his/her notes, it would be unusual to ask a professional athlete who has been diagnosed with testicular cancer whether or not he has used performance enhancing drugs,” Nichols said. “I have treated other athletes with testicular cancer and don’t recall ever asking them whether or not they have used performance enhancing drugs.”
In his own defense, Armstrong said in a November deposition that no doctor had ever asked him whether he had used doping products and that Betsy Andreu held a personal grudge against him. Armstrong suggested that Frankie Andreu had simply gone along with his wife’s account in order to offer her support.
“I stand by my deposition,” Betsy Andreu told VeloNews Friday. “I didn’t ask to be dragged into this mess … We were served with subpoenas by a Michigan court and we had no choice but to testify.”
The wire services AFP and AP contributed to this report.