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UCI memo reveals Lance Armstrong failed four doping controls during 1999 Tour de France

Governing body's lawyer says ointment the most likely cause - even though rider himself admitted saddle-sore story was a cover-up...

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

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.


Simon has been news editor at 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.

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