A leaked memo from the UCI reveal that Lance Armstrong failed four doping controls during the 1999 Tour de France, not two as the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) claimed. The author, a UCI lawyer, says the most likely explanation is that the substance was contained in an ointment – even though Armstrong himself has admitted that a backdated prescription was fabricated to cover up his cortisone use.
A copy of the internal memo, dated January this year and written by UCI lawyer Philippe Verbiest, was obtained by Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, reports Telegraph.co.uk.
It says that Armstrong tested positive for a corticosteroid on July 4, 14, 15 and 21 during the 1999 Tour de France, the year he won the first of seven consecutive editions of the race.
USADA’s Reasoned Decision in the Armstrong case says that he tested positive on the day he won the Prologue, July 3, and again the following day. The UCI memo makes no mention of that 3 July test.
The rider, now banned from sport for life and stripped of results dating back to August 1998, was able to escape sanction by producing a backdated therapeutical use exemption from US Postal doctor Luis Garcia Del Moral for a saddle sore cream that would have contained the substance.
"Until the 1999 Tour de France there had been no testing for corticosteroids," said Verbiest in his memo.
"Riders, teams and team doctors didn’t have to bother about mentioning corticosteroids or medicines containing them at doping controls.
"This all of a sudden changed. The testing for corticosteroids was announced to the riders only a couple of days before the start of the Tour.
His conclusion was that the levels established in Armstrong’s test results were "indeed an ointment and not a prohibited systematic use."
However testimony from Armstrong’s then masseuse, Emma O’Reilly, and others claimed the saddle sore cream story was be a sham and that the rider had undergone cortisone injections, leading to the positive test.
Armstrong admitted to Oprah Winfrey during his televised confession in January that O’Reilly’s claims were true.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.