Sports Illustrated has delivered the latest grist to be chewed on regarding allegations that Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs during his career.
Available in the current issue, “The Case Against Lance Armstrong” also is posted online at the Sports Illustrated website. Reporters Selena Roberts and David Epstein went back as far as 1993 to uncover tests that sources say reveal suspicious activity.
Armstrong has steadfastly denied doping during his career. But he is the subject of a federal probe launched about the same time that Floyd Landis admitted to a career of doping and implicated Armstrong as well.
Armstrong refused to comment in depth about the article, telling reporters only: “I perused it. There's nothing there.”
Armstrong's spokesman, Mark Fabiani, is quoted in CyclingNews: “The story is filled with old news, recycling the same old tired lies from the same old tired liars”.
A spokesman for Sports Illustrated said: “We stand by the reporting in the story.”
Those interested in the case should read the full Sports Illustrated story to make up their own minds. Here are some of its highlights:
— High ratios of testosterone-epitestosterone in tests from 1993, 1994 and 1996: This is the same test that brought down Floyd Landis after the 2006 Tour de France. The anti-doping lab, run by Donald Catlin at the time, was unsuccessful in confirming the results (a necessary step) and therefore ruled them negative.
Catlin turned up again when, in private practice, he was asked to test Armstrong and other Team Astana cyclists after the Texan announced in 2008 that he was returning to cycling. That plan dissolved, however, when its projected cost became prohibitive.
[At his blog on Jan. 27, Catlin said the story contains innuendo and mischaracterizes key elements.]
— Unidentified sources in the government's investigation of Armstrong say he “gained access” to a drug, HemAssist. Aside from its proscribed use for blood loss patients, the substance didn't thicken the blood like EPO and was difficult to detect. Armstrong's lawyers say he couldn't have had access when the source says he did, although others say a stockpile remained after clinical trails ended in 1998.
VeloNews reported, however, that Dario Frigo was caught with vials of HemAssist in 2001.
— Armstrong's relationship to Michele Ferrari, the Italian doctor who defended the use of EPO but has denied ever administering it to athletes. Landis says that Ferrari helped him to dope.
Sports Illustrated reports that Ferrari used a code to keep track of doping and that Italian investigators found training logs at the home of Yaroslav Popovich that “could be relevant” to Ferrari's relationship with Armstrong's teams as recently as 2009, the year he returned to cycling. Armstrong announced in 2004 that he had cut ties with Ferrari.
— What Armstrong did or didn't say after cancer surgery in 1996: Betsy and Frankie Andreu (a teammate) heard him tell doctors that he took EPO, steroids, testosterone, cortisone and growth hormone. A marketing rep, Stephanie McIlvain, for a sunglasses company also was present and heard no such admissions. Greg Lemond, however, secretly taped a phone conversation with McIlvain in which she says, “You know, I was in that room. I heard it, you know.”
— Teammate Stephen Swart's allegations about EPO doping on the Motorola team in the early 1990s, although he says he never saw Armstrong dope or provide others with EPO.
— Armstrong associate and bike mechanic Mike Anderson: Filing a lawsuit against Armstrong about a business deal gone sour in 2005, he mentioned finding a box labeled “Andro” in Armstrong's apartment in Girona, Italy (Armstrong has denied using Andro). That lawsuit also mentions Armstrong dodging anti-doping agency officials at his ranch in Texas in 2004. The story was disputed by another Armstrong associate allegedly involved in the ruse.
— Landis told Sports Illustrated about an incident in which Swiss customs agents searched Armstrong's belongings at an airport (apparently a rare procedure on private jet travel) and found syringes and drugs. An Armstrong associate was able to convince the Swiss that they were vitamins. Armstrong's attorney said the event never happened.