Lance Armstrong’s former teammate, Tyler Hamilton, says Armstrong and other team leaders encouraged, promoted and took part in a doping program in an effort to win the Tour de France in 1999 and beyond, according to a report aired Sunday night on “60 Minutes.”
Hamilton said he saw Armstrong take performance-enhancing drugs, EPO and testosterone and also saw him receive a banned blood transfusion in 2000.
“I feel bad that I had to go here and do this,” Hamilton said in his first public admission of doping throughout his career. “But I think at end of the day, like I said, long-term, the sport’s going to be better for it.”
In the interview, portions of which were aired Thursday and Friday on “CBS Evening News,” Hamilton revealed other observations about the U.S. Postal team operation:
• Team leaders, including doctors and managers, encouraged and supervised doping;
• Doping was going on inside the U.S. Postal team even before Armstrong joined in 1998;
• Performance-enhancing drugs, including EPO and human growth hormone, were handed out to cyclists in white lunch bags;
• Team members were met at the airport, driven to hotels, told to lie down and give blood that could be transfused back into their bodies at a later date.
Armstrong long has denied doping and has never tested positive.
Sunday, his attorney, Mark Fabiani, released a statement deriding the CBS report.
“We have already responded in great detail at www.facts4lance.com,” Fabiani said. “Throughout this entire process, CBS has demonstrated a serious lack of journalistic fairness and has elevated sensationalism over responsibility. CBS chose to rely on dubious sources while completely ignoring Lance’s nearly 500 clean tests and the hundreds of former teammates and competitors who would have spoken about his work ethic and talent.”
The “60 Minutes” report used unidentified sources to report that another Armstrong teammate and close friend, George Hincapie, testified to the grand jury investigating doping within cycling that he and Armstrong supplied each other with EPO and discussed having used testosterone to prepare for races.
Armstrong posted a statement in support of Hincapie on the website: “We are confident that the statements attributed to Hincapie are inaccurate and that the reports of his testimony are unreliable.”
Hincapie released a statement Friday, through his lawyer, saying he did not speak with “60 Minutes” and didn’t know where the show got its information.
Hamilton, meanwhile, described a systematic doping program run by Armstrong’s U.S. Postal team. He said he offered the same testimony to the Los Angeles-based grand jury.
Federal prosecutors are investigating what essentially would have been a drug distribution network that was formed to keep Armstrong’s teams running at the head of the pack.
The “60 Minutes” revelations, combined with recent requests from federal authorities for evidence in France, have fed a sense of growing trouble for the world’s most famous cyclist, an international star and a cancer survivor who has raised millions of dollars to fight the disease.
In his interview, Hamilton said he saw Armstrong use the blood-boosting drug EPO during the 1999 Tour de France and in preparation for the 2000 and 2001 tours.
Armstrong won the world’s most-revered race each year from 1999-2005.
But the case federal authorities are trying to compile won’t be decided solely on whether Armstrong doped. It has more to do with a doping program allegedly run by the cyclist and his team — a program that could lead to fraud and conspiracy charges.
“He obviously was the biggest rider in the team and he helped to call the shots,” Hamilton said. “He doped himself, you know, like everybody else, but he was just being part of the culture of the sport. ... He was the leader of the team and he expected for going in, for example the ’99 Tour, (that) we were going to do everything possible to help Lance win. We had one objective, that’s it.”
Also in the “60 Minutes” report, Hamilton said Armstrong told him he had tested positive at the 2001 Tour de Suisse — a warm-up race for the Tour de France — but that he wasn’t worried about it.