[credit provider=”Associated Press”]
The latest accusations of blood doping against Lance Armstrong have caused another stir, with Armstrong issuing heated denials and accusing 60 Minutes of unethical treatment.Tyler Hamilton’s claim that he saw Armstrong inject himself with EPO maybe the most damaging charge yet, but it’s obviously not the only one leveled against the 7-time Tour de France winner.
Another cyclist interviewed for this Sunday’s show is Frankie Andreu. Andreu was a long time teammate of Armstrong’s who was fired from the U.S. Postal Service team in 2000 — not long, he says, after Armstrong asked him to visit with Dr. Michele Ferrari, a Italian physician accused of supplying EPO treatments to cyclists.
Andreu’s wife, Betsy, who was also interviewed by 60 Minutes, has been one of Armstrong’s loudest critics. As recounted in this Sports Illustrated story from last year, Andreu once gave a sworn deposition saying that she was at a meeting with Armstrong and his doctors, during his treatment for cancer in 1996, when Armstrong admitted to them that he had taken steroids and EPO.
Armstrong has accused Andreu of “bitterness, jealousy and hatred” and says she is obsessed with him. We spoke to Andreu on the phone today and she says that she is indeed obsessed. “I’m obsessed with telling the truth.”
Andreu says that 60 Minutes approached her and Frankie about the story they were working on about Armstrong and she initially told them to “take a hike.”
“I asked them, “Where have you been all these years?” Everyone has been so gentle with Lance. I grilled them.”
Andreu says that once she realised they were serious and had done their homework, both she and Frankie agreed to be interviewed. It’s not clear what, if any, material from their interviews will appear on Sunday’s show.
Betsy says that drug use in cycling evolved over time and that among the pro riders, EPO use was like cheating on your wife. No one had any proof, but the peloton (the main pack of riders in a cycling race) was getting faster all the time. Everyone had suspicions about why that was and many began to take matters into their own hands.
Michele Ferrari was an Italian doctor who treated both Armstrong and Floyd Landis and has publicly defended EPO, saying that it isn’t dangerous. Betsy Andreu says that Frankie refused to see Ferrari after Armstrong’s requested it, so he was not aware of any the details of doping as described by Floyd Landis, the former Tour winner who claims that he and Armstrong both used blood doping drugs while they were teammates.
She also says Frankie had been chastised by Lance earlier for not being a “team player.” Andreu rode the Tour clean in 2000. Afterward, Lance with team coaches Johan Bruyneel and Mark (Gorski) refused to renew his contract.
Armstrong himself claims that he broke off contact with Ferrari in 2004 and ordered his team to do the same, but other reports claim that he visited with him as recently as 2010.
Betsy says she is cooperating with the ongoing investigation, but can’t comment further on what she and her husband have told the government investigators, who opened a grand jury to investigate Landis’ allegations last year.
Jeff Novitzky – the same FDA agent who has investigated Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and other baseball players, and now looking into Armstrong – has asked them to stay out of the media, but she says she didn’t listen.
Armstrong has accused Landis and Hamilton of merely trying to sell books. He hastily launched a website on Thursday, attacking the credibility of Hamilton, Andreu, Floyd Landis, and 60 Minutes, accusing them of violating “journalistic ethics” by not allowing him to respond to his accusers.
A 60 Minutes spokesperson gave us this response:
Lance Armstrong was given every opportunity to appear on 60 Minutes but he and his lawyers consistently declined. We consider this investigation to be the most thoroughly researched report ever done on the use of performance enhancing drugs in cycling and our story, this Sunday at 7pm, will speak for itself.
CBS News chairman Jeff Fager went even further, saying Armstrong’s lawyers, “would guess who it was in our story and try to assassinate their character…. They just want to tear that person apart in public.”
The site also accuses Hamilton of trying to sell his story for a book and making a secret deal with the government to keep his 2004 Olympic Gold Medal if he testified against Armstrong, but Hamilton voluntarily surrendered the medal on Friday.
For her part, Betsy says she has been approached with an offer to tell her story in a book, but has turned it down.
The Andreus, Stephen Swart, Landis, and now Tyler Hamilton. Four teammates who say they have evidence that Armstrong was using illegal substances in his training. Two major news organisations (Sports Illustrated and CBS) with heavily detailed reports. We asked Andreu if she thinks this latest story, will finally change the public’s opinion of Lance and force people to take the allegations against him more seriously.
“I don’t think people appreciate the fear that people have of Lance,” she says. “People are afraid to speak out against him. We have not made any money off this. We’ve had to spend thousands of dollars defending our name. He always attacks the messenger, because he can’t argue with the truth of the message.”