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‘He has never discussed EPO with me’
Defending Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has issued a written statement acknowledging that he has been working with Michele Ferrari, but denying suggestions that he has sought illegal help from the Italian physician.
Armstrong’s statement came in response to articles that appeared Saturday and Sunday in several European papers, including a lengthy piece in the Sunday Times of London questioning the Tour champion’s commitment to racing in a drug-free environment.
Several newspapers in Italy reported on Saturday that Armstrong has recently visited and worked with Ferrari. The Italian physician has been under investigation since 1998 on suspicion that he has relied on performance-enhancing drugs to help his most promising riders, including former world hour record holder Tony Rominger, Italy’s Mario Cipollini, Spaniard Abraham Olano and Armstrong’s former teammate Kevin Livingston.
Following the completion of the first road stage of the Tour de France on Sunday afternoon, Armstrong invited several journalists to meet him at his hotel in Recques sur Hem to discuss the stories and, in particular, his relationship with Ferrari. However, upon their arrival, the journalists were told that Armstrong would only be issuing a written statement and would schedule a formal press conference in the coming days.
Armstrong acknowledged that he had worked with Ferrari as part of a planned hour record attempt, but denied ever discussing the use of banned drugs with the doctor.
The statement comes on the heels of a new round of doping charges, triggered in part by an article in the Sunday Times of London by David Walsh. Walsh outlined a case in which he attempts to answer the question of whether Armstrong could possibly excel in a sport so rife with drugs and remain clean. “Can a clean rider beat those on drugs?” Walsh asks.
Walsh includes interviews with an unnamed former Motorola teammate who suggests Armstrong actively sought EPO as far back as 1995. The article also includes comments by former U.S. Postal team physician Prentice Steffan, who left the team one year before Armstrong signed on. Steffan, now the team doctor for Mercury-Viatel, suggests that his departure from the Postal team was triggered by his refusal “to do all that could be done,” to help his riders excel after a poor performance in the 1996 Tour of Switzerland.
In an April interview with Walsh, Armstrong neither confirms nor denies working with Ferrari, saying only that he “perhaps” might be working with him. Walsh then provides evidence suggesting that Armstrong had indeed traveled to Italy on several occasions, including a brief visit just before the Sydney Olympics and another about 10 days after the interview between the two.
In his written statement, Armstrong outlined the reasons behind his reliance on Ferrari’s advice and counsel, but said that he had little reason to advertise the relationship because of “irresponsible comments (Ferrari) made in 1994 regarding EPO,” but reiterated that he had never discussed with Ferrari.
Ferrari once described the red-blood-cell-boosting drug as “no more harmful than orange juice.”
Armstrong did not specifically address the allegations raised by his former teammate or by Steffan, though he did ask to be allowed to address all of those issues in an as-of-yet-unscheduled press conference.
The following is a statement issued by Lance Armstrong, U.S. Postal Pro Cycling – July 8, 2001
For many years now, dating back to 1990, Chris Carmichael has been my coach and most important technical and training advisor. Others who work with Chris include Johan Bruyneel, my director sportif, John Cobb, in charge of aerodynamics, Dr. Luis del Moral, our team physician and Jeff Spencer my chiropractor.
Also included are my close friends, former Belgian champion Eddy Merckx and former Motorola team director Jim Ochowitz.
Chris and I met Michele Ferrari during a training camp in San Diego, California, in 1995. His primary role has always been limited. Since Chris cannot be in Europe on an ongoing basis, Michele does my physiological testing and provides Chris with that data on a regular basis. Chris has grown to trust Michele’s opinion regarding my testing and my form on the bike. And lately, we have been specifically working on a run at the hour record. I do not know exactly when I will do that, only that I will in the near future.
He has also consulted with Chris and me on dieting, altitude preparation, hypoxic training and the use of altitude tents, which are all natural methods of improvements.
In the past, I have never denied my relationship with Michele Ferrari. On the other hand, I have never gone out of my way to publicize it. The reason for that is that he has had a questionable public reputation due to the irresponsible comments he made in 1994 regarding EPO.
I want to make it clear that I do not associate myself with those remarks or, for that matter, with anyone who utilizes unethical sporting procedures. However, in my personal experience I have never had occasion to question the ethics or standard of care of Michele. Specifically, he has never discussed EPO with me and I have never used it.
I have always been very clear on the necessity of cycling to be a clean sport and I have firmly stated that anyone, including me, who tests positive for banned substances should be severely punished.
As everyone knows, I am one of the very few riders who have no prescriptions in my health book. I have been repeatedly tested during my career including during the entire 1999 and 2000 Tours de France and most recently during the Tour de Suisse ten days ago.
I ask that I be allowed to address these issues publicly at a later date.