Analysis: How Spain became center of operations in Armstrong’s doping ring

Andrew Hood /
French headlines have recently vilified Lance Armstrong, who had numerous run-ins with the French press and doping authorities. Photo: Franck Fife | AFP

MADRID (VN) — Spain’s reputation as a dopers’ haven is not getting any help from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation against Lance Armstrong. Three Spaniards were key players in the long-running doping ring and Spain became the haven for the U.S. Postal Service’s efforts to acquire illicit doping products and avoid controls.

According to documents in the USADA dossier, published last week, the reach of the doping program was global, stretching from Texas to California to across Switzerland, Italy and the Canary islands to wherever the team was racing, but Spain served as an important base of operations, critical for the success of the entire system.

It wasn’t the mild weather and good training roads that prompted Armstrong to move his European base from Nice, France, to Girona, Spain, in 2000. Instead, Spain’s lax attitude and porous borders made Girona the ideal choice from which to operate in Europe for Armstrong.

The majority of his American teammates already lived there, creating a U.S.-European hub starting in 1997, but the move also meant that Armstrong was closer to the team’s doping doctors and further away from the prying eyes of French authorities.

Most of the key players in the Armstrong doping ring — with the exception of Italian doctor Michele Ferrari — all lived within a few hours’ drive from Girona. That allowed for easier transportation and application of the ever-more-elaborate cocktail of banned performance enhancing products.