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Swiss lab director confirms Armstrong-Bruyneel meeting, but denies cover-up

The director of a Swiss anti-doping laboratory says he met with Lance Armstrong and then-U.S. Postal team director Johann Bruyneel to review EPO testing methods, soon after four anonymous samples from the 2001 Tour de Suisse had been labeled as “suspicious.”

Martial Saugy, the director of the WADA-certified anti-doping laboratory in Lausanne, confirmed to Switzerland’s Neue Züricher Zeitung that the meeting had occurred, confirming allegations raised during aa recent broadcast of CBS’ “60 Minutes.” During that broadcast WADA officials characterized such a meeting between laboratory staff and riders as “inappropriate.”

Saugy said he met with U.S. Food and Drug Administration criminal division investigator Jeff Novitzky, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officials and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation at World Anti-Doping Agency headquarters in Montreal last September to discuss the samples and details of a meeting he’d had with Armstrong and Bruyneel to review testing methods used to detect EPO.

Armstrong’s attorney Tim Herman, however, issued a statement that neither his client nor Bruyneel have “any recollection” of having met with the lab director “for any purpose at any time.”

The September meeting with investigators came after Saugy had earlier approached WADA director general David Howman in response to accusations by Floyd Landis that the UCI had engaged in a cover-up of Armstrong’s positive test result. Those same allegations were repeated by Hamilton on Sunday.

In the CBS interview, Hamilton said that he was aware of a positive test involving Armstrong, but that “people took care of it.”

“I don’t know all the exact details,” Hamilton said, “but I know that Lance’s people and the people from the other side from ─ I believe from the governing body of the sport figured out ─ figured out a way for it to go away.”

Results ‘suspicious’ but haven’t been linked to Armstrong

Saugy confirmed that there had been four results – none of which have been linked to specific riders – that had been labeled “suspicious” from the race, but said the results were “not quite definitive.” The assessment of the samples occurred at a relatively early stage in the development of the urine-based test for EPO and Saugy said that the samples showed a “large probability” of doping, but lacked the requisite degree of certainty to be characterized as “positive.”

Testing protocols require that samples be labeled with a numerical code and that only the UCI could link those numbers to a specific rider. The UCI, has not released any information regarding the tests or to whom the results could be attributed. It was a breakdown of that system that led to the release of results from a 2005 re-test of samples from the 1999 Tour, in which six samples submitted by Armstrong allegedly showed indications of EPO use.

Saugy told the Swiss newspaper, in a story published on Friday, that American and WADA investigators had specifically asked if any of Armstrong’s samples had triggered suspicion or if UCI authorities had acted to suppress results. Saugy he had no reason to suspect a cover-up.

Saugy said investigators also sought details of a meeting he had with Armstrong and then-U.S. Postal team director Johann Bruyneel to review testing methods used to detect EPO. Saugy said that he had discussed the methods used in the then-new test with them as he was collecting blood samples.

Howman told CBS that any such meeting would be considered to be inappropriate.

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

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