Plenty responsible for the Armstrong lie
This July 7, 2005 file photo shows Lance Armstrong of the US during the sixth stage of the 92nd Tour de France cycling race between Troyes and Nancy. AFP PHOTO / Files / JOEL SAGET
In his testimony to the US anti-doping authority, Christian Vande Velde said, “the only way forward with Armstrong’s team was to get fully on Dr. Ferrari’s doping program.”
And while Lance’s team were just following orders, they must share the shame and guilt.
But, like any sporting team, a cycling team is so much bigger than just its athletes.
There are coaches, doctors, trainers, soigneurs (personal assistants), daily runners in the team cars and on motorbikes, drivers and, of course, the riders’ wives and girlfriends.
This is dozens of people, all of whom play an integral part in seeing one man wearing yellow on the Champs Elysees.
In the case of Lance Armstrong, literally all the people listed above were integral to the doping which saw Lance win his seven Tours. The level of not just awareness but involvement in the doping permeated top to bottom.
Obviously at the top are three men – Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel and Dr Michele Ferrari.
A few days ago, Bruyneel stood down by “mutual agreement” as managing director of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek – the team he and Lance were integral in creating and are part owners of. He is awaiting arbitration following the USADA investigation into his role in doping.
Dr Ferrari has been barred for life from the sport of cycling, after deciding not to contest the findings of the USADA inquiry.
But while Dr Ferrari was the architect of the doping regime, he has been the embodiment of doping for years and to be merely mentioned in the same sentence as him was to see you immediately cast in a disparaging light (as Mick Rogers is learning).
As such, the almost daily administering of EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and the quite literal doctor’s kit full of other illicit (and sometimes legal but still administered in secret) drugs was left to other men.
Team doctor Luis Garcia del Moral and trainer Pepe Marti are described in the reasoned decision as, “the riders’ principal sources of EPO and testosterone.
“George Hincapie and Tyler Hamilton confirmed that ‘EPO was provided by Pepe Marti who lived about 3 hours from where [Hincapie and Hamilton] lived in Girona, Spain…’
“Similarly, Dr. del Moral had delivered EPO to Jonathan Vaughters in Girona, and Vaughters understood that del Moral was going on from there to deliver ‘doping products, including EPO, to my teammates in Nice.’”
Dr del Moral is serving a lifetime ban from the sport of cycling, though he claims his ban came about because he refused to testify against Lance – not out of solidarity but rather because he maintains they did not dope.
Marti was also handed a lifetime ban after initially deciding not to go to arbitration with USADA but that has been put aside as Marti is now preparing to go forward with arbitration.
Dr Pedro Celaya, who was team doctor of USPS before and after Dr del Moral, has also been banned from cycling for life.
Dr Celaya was team doctor who began the practice of giving blood transfusions on the team bus:
“Landis testified that this transfusion occurred on the team bus between the finish of a stage and the hotel and that the driver had pretended to have engine trouble and stopped on a mountain road for an hour so that the team could have blood infused.”
Though not named, this quite clearly implicates the team bus driver as part of the conspiracy.
A name which features regularly in the reasoned decision is that of Lance’s personal soigneur, Emma O’Reilly.
Ms O’Reilly was officially brought in to the inner circle after being present when Dr del Moral backdated a prescription for cortisone for Lance, after tested positive in the 1999 Tour.
Lance said to her that day, “Now, Emma, you know enough to bring me down.”
As such, her role in the doping programme increased. Last week she told a story to the BBC of hiring a car to travel to Spain, picking up drugs from Bruyneel and delivering them to Lance in France.
“Basically as I used to say to some of the soigneurs, ‘you are drug runners’, and that’s what I was being for the weekend.”
Frankie Andreu was Lance’s co-captain on USPS for a number of years and one of his closest friends. His wife, Betsy, has been in the press quite prominently since the publication of the reasoned decision.
Her testimony gives evidence of how long Lance’s doping went back, as she was present as Lance told his doctors at the time of his cancer diagnosis he had been using.
The woman who most prominently features as part of the conspiracy, however, did not testify – Lance’s first wife, Kristin.
Kristin was a regular visitor of Dr Ferrari with Lance, told Betsy Andreu she believed EPO to be “a necessary evil” and even went so far as to aid Lance in distributing, as outlined in the decision:
“Armstrong had asked his wife Kristin to wrap cortisone tablets in tin foil for him and his teammates.”
Perhaps the most amazing tale of how deep the conspiracy went is the involvement of the individual known as ‘Motoman’.
His identity is not revealed in the reasoned decision, except to say he was “a sometime personal assistant and handyman for the Armstrongs” and a motorcycle enthusiast – hence the nickname. His involvement, however, was staggering.
“…he would also become a drug smuggler. Specifically, it would become his duty to follow the Tour on his motorcycle and make deliveries of EPO to Pepe or another U.S. Postal Service staffer.”
In a nutshell, almost everybody was in on it – the team’s managing director, the doctors, the trainers, the soigneurs, the bus driver, spouses, even the handyman! Which makes the length of time the cover-up went on truly amazing.
Sure there’s the famed ‘omertà’, or code of silence, within the peloton, but even so, riders such as Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton spilled the beans on Lance long before the girl who gave him his rub-downs.
As such, a level of celebrity will be afforded to these people in the coming weeks and months. Many will be remembered as integral players in the destruction of the Lance Armstrong lie.
What we should never forget however, are their central roles in creating and upholding this lie.
Joe is the editor of Disaffected Middle Class
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