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George Hincapie, one of Lance Armstrong’s closest friends during their time together at the U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams and the only member of all seven of Armstrong’s Tour de France-winning squads, testified before a federal grand jury that he and Armstrong had supplied one another with EPO and testosterone, CBS News reported Friday afternoon.
According to CBS News, Hincapie testified that he and Armstrong supplied each other with EPO and discussed having used testosterone to prepare for races.
Through an attorney Hincapie declined to be interviewed, citing the ongoing federal investigation led by FDA agent Jeff Novitsky.
Hincapie, reached by VeloNews Thursday, declined to comment on Hamilton’s confession and accusation. “I know you’ve got a job and you’ve got to ask these questions. I’ve got a job too. My job is here to race my bike, promote the sport that we all love; that I’ve sacrificed my whole life for. I just have no interest in dragging this sport through the mud, so I’m sorry, but I have no comment.”
When asked whether he had a reason to disbelieve Hamilton, Hincapie, who rode with him at Postal from 1997 to 2001, said, “I’m sorry. I’m not commenting.”
The story’s release Friday afternoon was the latest salvo in a war of the words that broke out after CBS News broadcasted an interview with former Postal teammate Tyler Hamilton Thursday night, in which Hamilton said he had witnessed Armstrong inject himself with EPO. A full report, with more from Hamilton, is scheduled for Sunday evening.
According to The Daily Beast, negotiations over whether Armstrong would grant an interview for Sunday’s program broke down this week amid accusations of bad faith from Armstrong’s camp.
On Thursday night Armstrong told The Daily Beast that “60 Minutes” had “reneged” on promises made to him, saying of the producer of the story, “I would not call him a straight shooter … My version of events has never changed on this, and won’t.”
CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, the executive producer of “60 Minutes,” dismissed Armstrong’s complaints. “We have been so thorough and fair to Lance Armstrong,” he said. “We have shared with them every single allegation in our story … This is a PR game. Our reporters have done a first-class job.”
After the Hamilton admission and accusation was the lead story on Thursday night’s “CBS Evening News,” promoting Sunday’s in-depth report, Fabiani released a statement saying that Hamilton “had duped CBS News, 60 Minutes and CBS reporter Scott Pelley, all in one fell swoop.”
“Hamilton is actively seeking to make money by writing a book, and now he has completely changed the story he has always told before so that he could get himself on ’60 Minutes’ and increase his chances with publishers,” Fabiani said in his statement. “But greed and a hunger for publicity cannot change the facts: Lance Armstrong is the most tested athlete in the history of sports: He has passed nearly 500 tests over twenty years of competition.”
Armstrong downplayed the accusations by tweeting: “20+ year career. 500 drug controls worldwide, in and out of competition. Never a failed test. I rest my case.”
In a letter to Fager, two of Armstrong’s lawyers, Robert Luskin and Ted Herman, said that “60 Minutes” was engaged in “disgraceful journalism” and “a serious breach of the most fundamental journalistic principles.”
Hamilton and former USPS teammate Floyd Landis each have an uphill battle in establishing their credibility. Each changed their stories fundamentally — from vehemently denying doping, to confessing and accusing Armstrong and others.
Hincapie, however, a three-time U.S. national road champion, has a solid reputation, is the co-owner of a successful outdoor clothing brand, and has remained friendly with Armstrong. At times Armstrong and Hincapie have referred to each other as best friends, and in an interview last year, Armstrong described Hincapie as “like a brother.”
While “60 Minutes” is reporting that Hincapie testified before a federal grand jury about his and Armstrong’s use of PEDs, he declined to be interviewed by “60 Minutes,” which will air its piece on the Armstrong investigation at 7 p.m. EDT Sunday.
Several sources have told VeloNews that the show will reveal further bombshells, beyond those of Hamilton and Hincapie.
Asked to comment on the newest “60 Minutes” segment, Fabiani told The Associated Press, “We have no way of knowing what happened in the grand jury and so can’t comment on these anonymously sourced reports.”
Meanwhile, at the Tour of California Friday, former Postal rider Dave Zabriskie won the stage 6 time trial. A year ago, Zabriskie was leader of the California tour when Landis’ allegations and confession first became public.
This year, Zabriskie again had no comment on the Hamilton and Hincapie stories.
“I was racing so I haven’t heard any of that,” he said.
When asked again about Hincapie, Zabriskie said, “No comment, have a good night,” and stepped into a Garmin team car.
VeloNews reporter Brian Holcombe contributed to this report.