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Simeoni set to sue Armstrong

Italian Filippo Simeoni, who is a key witness in the trial of Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, has confirmed his intention to take Lance Armstrong to court for defamation here at the Tour de France. Simeoni hopes to take the five-time Tour de France winner to court over comments made in Le Monde in July of 2003, when the American called the current Domina Vacanze rider a "liar" in the French newspaper article. The Le Monde article quoted Armstrong as saying that Simeoni had "lied" when he told investigators it was Ferrari who showed him (Simeoni) how to use the banned blood booster

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By Justin Davis, Copyright Agence France Presse 2004

Italian Filippo Simeoni, who is a key witness in the trial of Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, has confirmed his intention to take Lance Armstrong to court for defamation here at the Tour de France.

Simeoni hopes to take the five-time Tour de France winner to court over comments made in Le Monde in July of 2003, when the American called the current Domina Vacanze rider a “liar” in the French newspaper article.

The Le Monde article quoted Armstrong as saying that Simeoni had “lied” when he told investigators it was Ferrari who showed him (Simeoni) how to use the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) effectively.

Ferrari, who has infamously claimed that EPO was no more harmful than orange juice, is set to go on trial in Italy for sports fraud and the distribution of banned substances.

His trial is expected to be later this year, and the fall out from the trial could have negative consequences for the image of Armstrong, considered the biggest cycling champion of the modern era.

Armstrong’s revelation in 2001 that he had worked with Ferrari came as a shock to everyone in cycling, especially as it came in the wake of the publication, in GQ magazine, of Simeoni’s testimony to investigators.

Simeoni claimed Ferrari had showed him how to take EPO without getting caught, although the Italian never accused or implicated Armstrong.

Less than a year later, in March 2002 – after Armstrong’s links with Ferrari had become public knowledge – the American went on Italian television to defend Ferrari.

In the interview he also refuted Simeoni’s claims, saying that the Italian rider, who when first interviewed by investigators had made no claims about using EPO, could not be believed because he had changed his story.

The issue popped up again, at the Tour de France in 2003 when Armstrong reiterated in the Le Monde article that Simeoni was lying.

However the Italian, who picked a reduced four-month ban by the sport’s governing body the UCI for cooperating with Ferrari investigators, said he wants to put the record straight.

“He has tried to defend his own image vis-a-vis Ferrari, but I’ve never accused Armstrong personally, I would never do that,” said Simeoni in a long interview with L’Equipe newspaper on Sunday.

“You know, in some way I admire Armstrong for what he has done. I haven’t forgotten that he only had a 50 per cent chance of living, before he won the Tour (for the first time in 1999).

“But one day, in ‘Le Monde’, he attacked me again, calling me a liar. So, on the advice of my lawyers I am preparing to take him to court for defamation. I want him to publicly recognise his mistake.

“It’s not a question of money. If I’m awarded money, I’ll give it to charity.”

Simeoni meanwhile said he is glad to have turned his back on doping.

“By speaking out, it’s cleared my conscience, but don’t believe that it’s easy to admit to a judge, to spit it out to your friends and your parents that you’ve taken certain substances.

“I was ashamed, my parents were ashamed and I was on the brink of depression. I was scared of everyone, what they would say.

“But the thing that did me the most damage was the attitude of Armstrong,” added Simeoni referring to Armstrong’s appearance on Italian television.

“The meticulously prepared interview he gave to RAI (television station) the night before the Milan-San Remo in 2002 where he accused me of modifying my accusations … and where he described me as someone who couldn’t be believed.

“I was stunned. He arrived at Milan-San Remo and the first thing he does is try to drown me. I was in tears. I realised that by telling the truth I had turned my back on the most powerful rider in the peloton.”

Armstrong has never been sanctioned for any positive doping controls.

The American, who has always denied using performance-enhancing substances, showed minute traces of a banned corticosteroid at his comeback Tour de France in 1999, although he later produced a prescription for a cream containing steroids used for a saddle sore.

That prescription, however, was later a point of dispute raised in David Walsh’s recent book “LA Confidential,”in which former Postal soigneur Emma O’Reilly claimed that the prescription was part of an explanation fabricated by Armstrong and team officials.