CBS has this evening aired its 60 Minutes season finale interview with former US Postal Service rider Tyler Hamilton in which detailed allegations of doping have been levelled at seven times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. When trailers for the show, which has taken six months to research and produce, were first aired last week, Armstrong’s advisors were quick to condemn Hamilton as discredited.
However, the programme not only repeated the subsequent claim that George Hincapie has also testified to a grand jury that he and Armstrong took performance enhancing drugs, but also featured footage of an interview with David Howman, director of the World Anti-Doping Agency regarding reports of what has long been rumoured by some to be a positive test by Armstrong for EPO during the 2001 Tour de Suisse.
Hamilton asserted that following news that his test had returned a suspicious result, Armstrong and US Postal Service manager Johan Bruyneel met with the Swiss lab that had carried out the test, with the meeting organised by the UCI, all of which Howman said was a highly unusual breach of protocol.
CBS added that US prosecutors were taking a particularly close interest in that failed test at the Tour de Suisse. Asked about Armstrong’s long-standing assertion that he has never failed a drugs test, Howman pointed out that neither has the disgraced former Olympic champion Marion Jones.
According to 60 Minutes the director of the lab responsible for testing Armstrong's urine sample from the race gave a sworn statement to the FBI saying that a UCI representative "wanted the matter of the suspicious test to go no further." The programme also claims to have a copy of a letter from the US Anti Doping Agency to the lab showing that tests of th initial sample had been suspicious and consistent with EPO use.
That segment of the programme will have made particularly uncomfortable viewing for any senior UCI officials watching. The organisation has consistently denied claims by Floyd Landis that it covered up a failed drugs test by Armstrong at the race – going so far as to recently start proceedings, along with its ex-president, Hein Verbruggen against Landis in the Swiss courts.
If the FBI does have such a statement from the lab director it does make the acceptace by the UCI of $100,000 dollar donation from Lance Armstrong in 2002 look at best extremely ill advised. According to UCI president Pat McQuaid speaking last year on Irish radio $88,000 of the Armstrong money was used to buy a Sysmex machine for blood sample analysis – as far as we are aware the other $12,000 of the donation has not so far been accounted for by the UCI.
The programme also said that despite claims that he had stopped using the services of controversial sports doctor Michele Ferrari in 2004, although he has admitted that he continues to see him socially on occasion, Armstrong had actually made large payments to Ferrari as recently as 2010, according to Italian prosecutors.
For his part, Hamilton said that his involvement with doping began at US Postal Service but in 1997, before Armstrong, then battling cancer, joined the team.
Hamilton says he was given a white lunch bag containing EPO – others got HGH or other substances – and it was implied that if he started doping, he would secure a berth on the Tour de France team.
He described how later, he would phone Armstrong saying he needed EPO and a DHL package arrived containing some, the implication being that his team leader, of not actually sending it personally, had played some role in it getting to him.
He also described how he had personally witnessed Armstrong undergoing an illegal blood transfusion during the 2000 Tour de France, and disclosed how he and Armstrong had travelled to Valencia in Spain some weeks earlier to have a pint of blood taken and stored – the blood that would be returned to their systems mid-race.
In a statement after the programme, Mark Fabiani, Counsel for Armstrong, said: “We have already responded in great detail at www.facts4lance.com. Throughout this entire process CBS has demonstrated a serious lack of journalistic fairness and has elevated sensationalism over responsibility.
“CBS chose to rely on dubious sources while completely ignoring Lance’s nearly 500 clean tests and the hundreds of former teammates and competitors who would have spoken about his work ethic and talent.”
Of course, 60 Minutes was only to able report some aspects of the ongoing investigation, ultimately it is federal investigators and the grand jury in Los Anglees, and not Tyler Hamilton or Armstrong’s other chief accuser, Floyd Landis, who will decide whether the investigation will result in criminal charges.
As the programme’s host Scott Pelley put it in his conclusion, “It will be up to the grand jury to decide whether the allegations of cheating have overtaken the legend.”
You can find links to some of CBS’s coverage here, with the full programme becoming available on its website in the coming days. In the meantime, the programme has been posted on the Australian site Cyclingtips if you can’t wait to see it.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.