By John Wilcockson
U.S. Postal Service general manager Mark Gorski, the 1984 Olympic sprint champion, said he was almost speechless when he read Sunday morning the accusations made by one of the team’s early physicians, Prentice Steffen, in the London newspaper article authored by staff sportswriter David Walsh. Steffen told Walsh that “two of my riders approached me saying they wanted to ‘talk about the medical program.'” Walsh then wrote, “Steffen is sure he was being asked to help two riders to dope.”
In commenting on those statements, Gorski said Sunday evening at the Postal team’s hotel 25 miles east of Boulogne. “He [Steffen] had really, really limited experience … he was a cycling enthusiast and begged us for a couple of years to do what he was doing…. and as we tried to improve in every area of our team, we brought in better riders, and better staff members, better equipment, improved our infrastructure from A to Z. You know, Prentice just … he didn’t fit in. He was a good guy, and probably a pretty good emergency room physician, but had relatively little experience (in sports medicine), and worked literally two or three weeks a year with the team, from 1992….”
Dan Osipow, who was an official with the team from its inception elaborated, by saying, “His biggest role was at the Tour DuPont. … in those days our team was a small program, it was almost exclusively U.S. races, so if we were fielding a competitive team for the Tour DuPont we needed to bring a team physician, and Prentice was that guy. And he was (also) with us the Philadelphia week, I’m sure that was the extent of his involvement with us for a season. There simply weren’t that big enough of events for us to compete in those days….”
“So he’s lying then,” said a journalist with an Irish newspaper.
“Absolutely,” said Gorski, “absolutely. I mean it’s just…. His statements are false, and they were false five years ago, and I’m really disappointed that he’s decided to bring them up again.”
“In what form did he bring them up five years ago?” asked a sportswriter from Australia.
” He did it through a letter to Thom Weisel and myself, in which he made some real accusatory statements. We responded within 24 hours, just said this was absolutely ridiculous, correct … we’re disappointed that you’re reacting in this way to our decision. But that happens sometimes. You make hard decisions about people’s … their careers, and their job, and he reacted badly.”
“Was there any threat of legal action against him at that point?” asked VeloNews.
“We did,” Gorski continued. “He’s correct in saying that we did respond legally at the time. And I think we’ll consider doing that again.”
Finally, Armstrong’s agent Bill Stapleton, a long-time lawyer from Texas, was asked if he would take legal action on his client’s behalf against The Sunday Times of London for publishing the David Walsh article. Stapleton simply replied. “I would not comment, ever, on the potential of a lawsuit until it’s filed. I’ve practiced law way too long.”
This and the rest of The Sunday Times’s implications about Armstrong being linked to doping practices will be continued at a news conference that the two-time Tour winner will host in the next day or so.