American Lance Armstrong continues to race at the Tour Down Under more to receive his estimated €2m appearance fee than to face questions over new doping allegations.
He was grumpy and rude at the start of stage two from Tailem Bend to the small town of Mannum. He asked one journalist if he was stupid when asked a relevant question about Sports Illustrated‘s article. Armstrong appeared more as a guilty suspect than a 39-year-old, seven-time Tour de France winner.
“I don’t have anything to say,” said Armstrong.
Sports Illustrated will have something to say. It will publish an article on January 24 with new allegations that Armstrong doped during his career. Today, it released an excerpt that said:
- Police found performance enhancing drugs in their raid of Yaroslav Popovych’s Italian home. He is Armstrong’s current RadioShack team-mate and helped him win 2005 Tour de France.
- Popovych’s computer files showed Armstrong worked with Michele Ferrari as late as 2009.
- Customs agents caught Armstrong at the St Moritz airport in 2003 with syringes and drugs.
- In the late 1990s, Armstrong used HemAssist, a drug similar to EPO that boosts the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity.
- Armstrong had elevated testosterone levels between 1993 and 1996.
“You got a new question?” said Armstrong, interrupting when asked about the allegations.
Armstrong gladly answered at length questions about the day’s stage crossing Murray River and Australia’s recent floods. When asked about something more relevant to cycling – the drugs found at Popovych’s home – he was less open.
“Dude, are you that stupid? Which part of I am not commenting is not clear to you?” said Lance. He then added, “I am sorry, you are not stupid, but you can’t hear. Do you have any more questions?”
The journalist is neither stupid nor deaf. He was asking questions about a timely and relevant topic.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also asking questions. Its prosecutor, Jeff Novitzky is investing allegations made by Armstrong’s former team-mate Floyd Landis. Landis alleged in April last year that Armstrong doped during his Tour de France victories.
The two raced together from 2002 to 2004 with team US Postal.
Landis won the Tour de France in 2006, but days later, he was found guilty for doping. He returned to race, but yesterday, he announced that he will retire from professional cycling. He said that finding a new team is too difficult due the allegations he made.
The FDA has opened a grand jury investigation. Novitzky travelled to meet with counterparts in France, Spain and Italy, countries where Armstrong lived or trained, in November. His work with Italian prosecutors led to the raid of Popovych’s home on November 11.
In the US, Novitzky has issued subpoenas several people close to Armstrong to testify in front of a grand jury in Los Angeles. Popovych and Armstrong’s former team-mates Kevin Livingston and Tyler Hamilton have reportedly been called to testify. His long-time sponsors – Nike, Oakley and Trek – have also provided information.
The allegations are much more serious for Armstrong than Australia’s floods or its longest river, the Murray River.
“I don’t have anything to worry about on any level,” said Armstrong. “It has nothing to do with what’s going on overseas.”