ARMSTRONG’S FORMER TEAM MATES ADMIT TAKING EPO
Two of Lance Armstrong's former team mates have admitted taking EPO while preparing for the 1999 Tour de France, the New York Times newspaper and website reported on Tuesday.
Frankie Andreu, who was part of the U.S. Postal Service team that helped Armstrong win the Tour de France in 1999 and 2000, admitted he used EPO for a limited period during his career.
“I tried my best never to use performance-enhancing drugs. I did make a couple of bad choices, but that was a long, long time ago. It’s not something to be proud of. I did use EPO, but only for a couple of races,” Andreu said.
“There are two levels of guys. You got the guys that cheat and guys that are just trying to survive.”
The other rider who said he used EPO spoke on condition of anonymity because he said he did not want to jeopardize his job in cycling.
“The environment was certainly one of, to be accepted, you had to use doping products. There was very high pressure to be one of the cool kids,” he said.
Neither rider ever tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but both said they felt as if they had to take EPO to make the Tour team in 1999.
Both of Armstrong’s former teammates also said they never saw Armstrong take any banned substances. Armstrong never failed a doping test during his career.
Andreu admitted the guilt of using EPO had been eating at him. He compared using the drug for a few races to robbing a bank: “Does it matter if you stole 10 cents or 10 million dollars? It’s still stealing,” he said.
According to the New York Times Andreu’s wife, Betsy, found a thermos flask containing EPO in her refrigerator in the weeks before the 1999 Tour.
“I remember Frankie saying: ‘You don’t understand. This is the only way I can even finish the Tour. After this, I promise you, I’ll never do it again.’ ” she said.
Betsy Andreu said she grudgingly watched her husband help Armstrong traverse the mountains at the Tour that year. She blames Armstrong for what she said was pressure on teammates to use drugs. Her husband, she said, “didn’t use EPO for himself, because as a domestique, he was never going to win that race. It was for Lance.”
One of Armstrong’s other teammates, Steve Swart of New Zealand, has admitted using EPO while riding for Motorola in the nineties. He discussed his time with the team in David Walsh’s book “L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong,” which was published in 2004.
The book’s allegations that Armstrong doped prompted the lawsuit between Armstrong and SCA Promotions, which was settled out of court in February. Testimony in the case was never supposed to become public but Armstrong has talked about the case and information was given to the New York Times.
In testimony in the case, Swart said top riders on Motorola discussed EPO in 1995. He testified that Armstrong told teammates that there was “only one road to take” to be competitive. In a sworn deposition, Swart said the meaning of Armstrong’s comment was clear: “We needed to start a medical program of EPO.”
Andreu is now scared for his future and scared that Armstrong may use his power and influence against him. However he says he hopes others come forward and say a program should be established for athletes to disclose details about doping without facing punishment.
“Everybody’s afraid to talk because they don’t want to implicate themselves,” he said.
“But there are guys out there who love the sport and who hate doping. They are the guys who have to speak up if the sport is going to survive.”