In an interview for 60 Minutes that is set to air on Sunday, retired professional cyclist Tyler Hamilton says that he witnessed seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong use EPO to preparation for the race in 1999, the year that Armstrong won his first Tour. Hamilton further alleges that the doping continued for the next two seasons as well, which was the length of his contract on the U.S. Postal Team.
According to this story at ESPN.com, Hamilton is quoted as saying: "I saw (EPO) in his refrigerator .. I saw him inject it more than one time like we all did, like I did many, many times." He goes on to add "(Armstrong) took what we all took ... the majority of the peloton. There was EPO ... testosterone ... a blood transfusion." His remarks not only condemn Armstrong, but also give us a glimpse into how wide spread the use of performance enhancing drugs have become in the sport.
Hamilton retired from cycling in 2009 after failing an off-season drug test for a banned substance that was in an anti-depressant that he was taking at the time. He has previously served a two-year ban for an illegal blood transfusion. Last year, Hamilton provided six hours of testimony to a grand jury investigating Armstrong and the use of performance enhancing drugs, in cycling.
Armstrong, and his legal team, point to his record of having never failed a drug test in his 20 year career, which includes more than 500 doping controls. Their defense is that if he were on something, it would have shown up in some test over the years. Armstrong also sent out a message via Twitter last night that read: "20+ year career. 500 drug controls worldwide, in and out of competition. Never a failed test. I rest my case."
Lawyers for Armstrong also say that this is a grab for headlines and publicity from Hamilton, who they claim has written a book about his career. They say that he has been shopping the book to publishers, and that by pointing the finger at Lance, he's simply drumming up controversy to sell books. It's a similar story that we've heard in the past as well.
This is, of course, just the latest round of allegations against Armstrong, who has been the target of scrutiny for years. While he may not have ever failed a test, there are plenty of people who have come forward in recent years to say that he used EPO and other substances, to help win his seven Tours. Of course, was we pull off the layers to this onion, we also learn that pretty much everyone else in the field was doping too, which means it was standard operating procedure for anyone who wanted to be able to compete.
For most riders, this probably wouldn't be that big of an issue. For instance, Hamilton and Floyd Landis have both admitted to doping, and at the time, it made headlines for a few days, particularly with fans of the sport. But Armstrong is a figure that looms over cycling, at least in the U.S., in such an iconic way, that it is seen quite differently with him. Proof of his doing would bring down a guy who has been an inspiration to millions.
And then you get into his off-the-bike activities. Lance's LiveStrong organization has done great things, and his legacy is likely to be so much bigger through those efforts. But much like the Greg Mortenson affair, which also flared up on 60 Minutes awhile back, these other issues threaten to cast a shadow over all the good work that has been done. Once again, lets hope thats not the case here either.
So? What does everyone else think? Did he dope? Does it matter? Personally, I think it is difficult to believe that he didn't use something during his seven year run at the top. Especially in light of how wide spread the use of PEDs had become. If he didn't, it really makes his wins all that more impressive.
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