Lance Armstrong has claimed under oath that former Motorola team manager Jim Ochowicz, now manager of the BMC Racing UCI WorldTour team, was behind the paying off of rivals that led to the cyclist earning $1 million for winning a series of three races.
Armstrong also implicated his then Motorola team mate Phil Anderson, the Australian rider who won stages of the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France and who was the first non-European to wear the yellow jersey, in helping arrange the deal.
The alleged bribes relate to a trio of races, the so-called Triple Crown, comprising the Thrift Drug Classic, K-Mart West Virginia Classic, and CoreStates USPRO Championship.
Armstrong – who would win the world road championship the same year – won all three and as a result pocketed a $1 million bonus from pharmacy chain Thrift Drug, insured at Lloyd’s of London.
But in December 2013, two months after Armstrong was handed a lifetime ban and stripped of results dating back to 1998, Italian former professional Roberto Gaggioli, favourite to win the third and final race, claimed that Armstrong had visited him in Bergamo in October of that year.
Gaggioli, who had been in what proved to be the race-winning break, said Armstrong wished him “Happy Christmas” and gave him a panettone box.
But instead of the cake Italians traditionally eat at Christmas, inside he found $100,000 – his reward, Gaggioli, who rode for the Coors Light team at the time told La Corriere della Sera, for letting Armstrong win.
According to VeloNews, Armstrong was quizzed about those races last month while being questioned under oath by lawyers acting for his former team mate Floyd Landis, who has brought the whistleblower case alleging misuse of government money due to US Postal’s sponsorship of their team being used to finance its doping programme.
One of Landis’s attorneys, Paul Scott, asked Armstrong: “Did anybody offer to pay any money on your behalf to any member of the Coors Light cycling team to allow you to win any stage of that race?
He replied: “I believe that Jim Ochowicz, perhaps Phil Anderson, negotiated some package with Coors Light.”
Armstrong subsequently confirmed that he had heard that first hand from Ochowicz and Anderson.
Scott asked him whether the deal was “For them basically to not compete at their strongest level and allow you to win the race; is that right?”
Initially replying, “no,” Armstrong elaborated: “I don’t know if they competed — I don’t think they threw the race, but I don’t know – I was so new to the sport, and that side of the sport was so new to me, I wasn’t very clear on how that worked.”
Ochowicz told VeloNews however that he had no knowledge of the events Armstrong claimed to have taken place, saying: “I never heard anything about Coors Light.
“Anything I have heard about this came way after the fact. I heard about this like everybody else. I had nothing to do with anything related to Coors Light.”
Both Gaggioli and one of his Coors Light team mates, New Zealand rider Stephen Swart, have previously named Anderson as being involved in the alleged bribery, though neither mentioned Ochowicz.
Anderson, for his part, told a TV programme in Australia in 2013 that he had no recollection of striking any deal, saying: “I can’t remember an offer. I think that the $1 million was underwritten by an insurance company, but I don’t recall.
“I mean that’s a few years ago. I don’t recall any meeting.”
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.