Testimony from Lance Armstrong points to BMC manager Jim Ochowicz in 1993 Triple Crown race-fixing scandal.
In sworn testimony from the Floyd Landis-U.S. federal government whistleblower lawsuit against him, Lance Armstrong has not only admitted that his Triple Crown win in 1993 and resulting $1 million bonus came about after the rival Coors Light team was paid to let him win, but that longtime U.S. cycling insider and current BMC Racing Team manager Jim Ochowicz orchestrated it.
Rumors of the paid collusion at the June 1993 race series have swirled for years. And in a 2013 interview with Corriere della Sera, former pro Roberto Gaggioli said Armstrong showed up at his home in Bergamo, Italy, in October of that year to make good on the deal by handing him a cake box containing $100,000. But Armstrong’s September 24, 2015, testimony, obtained this week by VeloNews, is the first time he has confirmed that the deal happened, that it was orchestrated by his Motorola team, and that he knew about it.
In addition to naming Ochowicz, Armstrong also implicated Phil Anderson, an Australian veteran who rode for Motorola at the time.
The transcript reads as follows:
Paul Scott [a member of Landis’ legal team]: Did anybody offer to pay any money on your behalf to any member of the Coors Light cycling team to allow you to win any stage of that race?
Armstrong: I believe that Jim Ochowicz, perhaps Phil Anderson, negotiated some package with Coors Light.
Scott: And how is it that you believe that Jim Ochowicz did that?
Armstrong: Because I heard that.
Scott: From whom?
Armstrong: From those guys. From Jim.
Scott: Jim Ochowicz told you he negotiated a deal?
Armstrong: Yeah. And Phil Anderson.
Scott: And Phil Anderson. For them basically to not compete at their strongest level and allow you to win the race; is that right?
Armstrong: No. Well —
Sharif Jacob [a member of Armstrong’s legal team]: Calls for speculation.
Armstrong: — I don’t know if they competed — I don’t think they threw the race, but I don’t know — I was so new to the sport, and that side of the sport was so new to me, I wasn’t very clear on how that worked.
Reached by email this week, Ochowicz denied any knowledge of the deal. “I never heard anything about Coors Light,” he said. “Anything I have heard about this came way after the fact. I heard about this like everybody else. I had nothing to do with anything related to Coors Light.”
The races in question took place in June of 1993. They were the Thrift Drug Classic, K-Mart West Virginia Classic, and CoreStates USPRO Championship. Collectively, they were called the Triple Crown, and they offered a $1 million bonus for any rider to win all three.
Gaggioli and New Zealander Stephen Swart, who both rode for Coors Light at the time, have previously told the story of the race fix. Neither mentioned Ochowicz, but Anderson was linked to the deal.
Swart provided sworn testimony in 2006 as part of a lawsuit between SCA promotions and Armstrong over non-payment of a $5 million bonus following Armstrong’s sixth Tour de France victory. He stated that an unnamed member of Armstrong’s Motorola team approached one of Swart’s teammates, which led to a follow-up meeting in the hotel room Armstrong and Anderson shared at the second of the three Triple Crown races. In the David Walsh book “LA Confidential,” Swart provided more detail. “They offered us $50,000 if we didn’t try to beat them,” he said. “It was rather a good deal for us.”
In 2013, Anderson told Australian television program “Four Corners” that he couldn’t recall such a deal. “I can’t remember an offer,” he said. “I think that the $1 million was underwritten by an insurance company, but I don’t recall. I mean that’s a few years ago. I don’t recall any meeting.”
In 2013, Gaggioli told Italian paper Corriere della Sera that Armstrong approached him before the start of the third and final triple crown race in Philadelphia and that the deal played out on the road. “Two laps from the finish, I got in the winning break with Lance, Bobby Julich, and some Italians from Mercatone Uno. Lance turned to me, and I pretended that I didn’t see him attacking, and he won alone,” Gaggioli said.
One of the Mercatone Uno riders, Roberto Pelliconi, confirmed to Corriere della Sera that they, too, had reached a deal with Armstrong. “[Angelo] Canzonieri and Lance agreed on 50. Angelo was thinking in dollars, Lance in lira,” he said. “At the Tour of Lombardy, he gave us 50 million lira, which saved [him] 40 percent, given the exchange rate.” [Armstrong did not race the 1993 edition of Tour of Lombardy, so either the alleged payment happened at another time, or it was handled by someone else -Ed.]
Armstrong appeared in Bergamo four months after the Triple Crown, Gaggioli said, shortly after his victory at the world championships. “He gave me a cake wrapped as a present, wished me ‘Happy Christmas’ and then left,” Gaggioli said. “There was $100,000 dollars in small bills in the box.”