Questions raised over Armstrong's UCI payment
Cycling:Fresh questions emerged on Monday night over the “triangle” involving disgraced Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, a payment by him to the International Cycling Union (UCI) and a drug-testing laboratory.
The UCI have admitted they accepted a donation of more than $100,000 from Armstrong in 2002, but have strongly denied it was connected to any cover-up of a positive test.
Former US Postal team-mate Tyler Hamilton has testified that Armstrong bragged he had managed to have a positive finding covered up.
Around about the same time, the head of a drug-testing laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, admitted to meeting Armstrong and separately were also given free use of a blood analysing machine by the UCI.
A report by the Usada last week labelled Armstrong a “serial cheat” and a bully who enforced “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”.
Dr Michael Ashenden, acknowledged as the foremost expert in blood doping and the man whose test caught Hamilton, said there were clear conflicts of interest.
Ashenden told BBC Radio: “The UCI should never have accepted money from Armstrong under any circumstances. But if they took money after they were aware there were grounds to suspect Armstrong had used EPO, it takes on a really sinister complexion.
“We know Armstrong paid the UCI more than 100,000 US dollars and around that time the UCI gave the Lausanne laboratory free use of a blood analyser worth 60 to 70,000 US dollars.
“That’s what I mean by a triangle: the laboratory meets with Armstrong, all of this takes place at about the time that Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton said under oath that Armstrong bragged he had managed to have a result covered up.”
Dick Pound, the former president of the World Anti-Doping Association (Wada), said the UCI could have made greater efforts to have caught drug-taking cyclists.
He said: “They could certainly have done things to ensure they caught more people. It’s generally acknowledged now that for a governing body to promote its sport and to police it puts them in an impossible conflict. The UCI have always been in a difficult position and their behaviour has not always been what you would hope it to be.
“There was certainly generalised knowledge that there had been some payments from Armstrong to the UCI. It’s hard to think of the UCI as a charity and Lance somebody filled with (charitable) spirit.”
A former aide of Armstrong’s told the BBC programme she was used as a “drug runner” during her time working for the US Postal team.
Irishwoman Emma O’Reilly, who was Armstrong’s personal masseuse and assistant in the 1990s, says she rented a car to travel down to Spain to pick up tablets from US Postal team director Johan Bruyneel before returning to France and giving them to Armstrong.
She said: “Johan gave me the tablets, very discretely, without letting anybody else know that I was getting them, and the following day we want back up to France and then the following morning I met Lance in the car park at McDonald’s and just handed them over.”
On Friday, Bruyneel quit as general manager of the RadioShack Nissan Trek team by mutual agreement, having chosen to contest the Usada charges in an arbitration hearing.
The Usada report states one rider testified “his use of prohibited substances was performed at the direction and with the full knowledge and approval of team director Johan Bruyneel”.
The UCI were not available to comment but have previously vehemently denied there was a cover-up of any positive test by Armstrong.
Hamilton also said that Armstrong paid for a motorcyclist to deliver the banned bloodbooster EPO to him during the 1999 Tour de France.
“Yeah in ’99 we had a motorcycle driver...we had him follow the Tour around for the better part of three weeks,” said Hamilton, who was one of Armstrong’s US Postal team mates from 1998 to 2001.
“He’d stay close enough to where we were staying at the hotels to drop off at any key moment. We knew other people were going to take risks so we were gonna take it too,” added Hamilton who said they put the used syringes into drinks cans before crushing them.
“Lance paid him between $15,000-20,000 to do it. Then, as Lance had won the Tour, we would all club together to buy him a Rolex watch. Somewhere out there he's wearing a gold Rolex watch.”