Swiss anti-doping lab chief denies telling Lance Armstrong how to avoid positive test for EPO
The director of the Swiss anti-doping laboratory in Lausanne has denied that he showed Lance Armstrong how to avoid testing positive for EPO during a tour of the facility in 2002 arranged at the request of the UCI, and insists did nothing wrong in connection with the Armstrong affair.
Dr Martial Saugy was speaking in a press conference yesterday arranged to respond to claims made by United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart on the CBS 60 Minutes Sports programme aired on Wednesday evening.
During that interview, Tygart had claimed: “I asked him [Saugy]: ‘Did you give Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel the keys to beating the EPO test?’ And he nodded his head ‘yes’.”
Saugy insists however that Tygart’s recollection of that discussion, held over dinner, had been sketchy and that he had never made such an affirmation, adding that he remains on good terms with the USADA CEO.
“A meeting did indeed take place, prior to the start of the 2002 Tour de France, with Lance Armstrong, the UCI’s doctor and Johan Bruyneel,” confirmed Saugy at yesterday's press conference, quoted on the Swiss website 20 Minutes Online, adding, “This is nothing new.”
The meeting – the only one he says he had with Armstrong and which lasted between 20 and 25 minutes – had been arranged at the behest of the UCI, which had asked that a “scientific” presentation be made to the cyclist.
Saugy insisted that it was fully permissible within the world of research and was held in the spirit of transparency.
“Athletes have a fundamental right to know the scientific basis of analysis,” he explained. “But did I, during this meeting, reveal the key to avoiding the tests? The response is clear. No.”
He added that the visit needed to be seen within the context of what he described as a “poisonous climate” at the time regarding suspicions over the reliability of controls, with Danish cyclist Bo Hamburger having recently been cleared of EPO use by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, although he would eventually confess to having doped in 2007.
Within that environment, he says, it was necessary to explain to riders about anti-doping methods, albeit without given away any secrets. “I’m still convinced it was the right thing to do,” said Saugy. “I did everything in good faith and I wasn’t naïve.”
He went on: “The battle against doping is our aim in life. It would be a paradox if the laboratory told the athlete how to evade controls.”
The laboratory is the same one that during the 2001 Tour de Suisse – 12 months before Armstrong’s visit – tested at least one sample taken from the then US Postal rider and found ‘suspect’ results for EPO, recorded in USADA’s Reasoned Decision in the Armstrong case.
According to the Reasoned Decision, “Dr. Saugy led USADA to understand that, under the current positivity criteria for EPO, the 2001 samples would have been considered “positive” rather than merely “suspicious” as had been the case in 2001.”
It was after that suspect test, according to testimony provided to USADA by Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, that Armstrong and Bruyneel met with the UCI, a meeting that would result in the cyclist offering the governing body a donation of $125,000, which he would subsequently pay in full.
Confirmation that the UCI brokered the meeting further raises concern about the role of the governing body and its officials in the Armstrong affair, which is itself the subject of an independent investigation ordered by UCI president Pat McQuaid last year and which will consider the issue over the coming months.