The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s report explaining its disciplinary actions against Lance Armstrong will make “uncomfortable reading” for the Union Cycliste Internationale, according to journalist David Walsh.
Writing in The Sunday Times, Walsh says the report contains details of what he called a “doping conspiracy that underpinned the success of the world’s top cycling team, U.S. Postal Service, and its leader Armstrong,” during 1999-2004.
“Adding to the sense of authenticity is the consistency that runs through the reports; incidents recounted by one rider that involve others are backed up in the accounts of those involved,” writes Walsh.
The UCI’s reaction to the report, he suggests, “is likely to be dismay that doping should have been so integral to U.S. Postal’s modus operandi and wonder that it remained undiscovered for so long.”
“UCI will also realize it missed many opportunities to investigate what was going on within the team and that this failure meant the team could go on doping for as long as they wished,” he added.
According to Walsh:
• Two riders are believed to have given affidavits that Armstrong told them he had gotten a positive test at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland covered up. Another has sworn that Armstrong told him he could use his influence with UCI to beat anti-doping regulations.
• In another affidavit a rider says Armstrong was concerned about scar tissue on his arm, purportedly caused by injections of EPO, as he prepared for a medical test before the 1999 Tour. According to this rider, he asked U.S. Postal soigneur Emma O’Reilly for makeup to conceal the scar and that she applied it to Armstrong’s arm. “This story was told in precisely the same detail by O’Reilly years earlier,” added Walsh. “At the time of her revelations, UCI did not feel any need to interview O’Reilly and see if her many examples of U.S. Postal’s cheating could be verified. Now UCI is having verification thrust upon it.”
• One rider says Postal riders on the U.S. national team were given cortisone pills before the road race at the 1998 world championship in Holland. According to the rider’s affidavit, the pills were wrapped in foil and dispensed by Kristin Armstrong, the champion’s former wife. According to Walsh, one rider joked, “Kristin is rolling the joints.”
• Another rider recalls a phone call from George Hincapie, who was at Armstrong’s side in all seven Tour wins, saying that U.S. Customs had found EPO in his luggage as he returned from Europe. According to this rider, Hincapie said it was prescribed medication and customs accepted the story.
In an interview with L’Equipe in France, Walsh writes, USADA CEO Travis Tygart said he believed all the witnesses his agency interviewed had told the truth and that there had been “confirmation” of this.
“Tygart might have been referring to the presence of U.S. Justice Department official Mike Pugliese at USADA’s interviews with witnesses,” Walsh writes.
According to Walsh, Pugliese brought transcripts of interviews the witnesses had given before a grand jury or to federal officers investigating a criminal case against the team, which was dropped in February.
Writes Walsh: “As you gave an answer to a question,” one witness said, “you were very conscious of this guy checking it against the answer you had given to the feds, so you really wanted to make sure you got it right.”
USADA did not receive any material from the aborted federal case, according to Walsh, who says Pugliese sat in on the interviews “solely to check if witnesses confirmed accounts given to federal officers and to see if the Justice Department should open a civil case against Armstrong and the owners of the team.”