Drugs and the Peloton
Team Armstrong Responds
When late January of 2004 rolled around, Allison and I prepared to leave Austin with our infant son, heading to Spain to get the apartment ready for Armstrong and his new girlfriend, Sheryl Crow. This process was referred to as “de-Kiking” the place. (Kik was Kristin’s nickname.) He asked us to get rid of everything of hers, with no clear instructions about where it should go. There was a great deal of clothing, personal items, mementos, and family photos. We piled it up in boxes and put it on the steps around the corner from the apartment like ordinary household trash.
In the middle of this purge, I found a prescription box in the medicine cabinet—to the side of the vanity in the bathroom—that sent everything spiraling. I knew what it was. Not exactly at first, but I sensed from my rudimentary knowledge of medicine that this box shouldn’t be in the bathroom of a professional cyclist.
The label said Androstenedione. I looked it up on a laptop computer Armstrong had given me months before. I was searching for valid reasons why he would have this substance, a banned steroid. There were none. I put it back and did my best to forget about it. But I was torn. Should I risk alienating Armstrong and losing my job by calling him out?
I didn’t say anything, but I was so rattled that Allison noticed, despite me not saying a word to her about what I’d seen. The day after Armstrong arrived in Girona, I sneaked another look at the medicine cabinet and saw that the box was gone. In short order, Armstrong started behaving very differently with me. There was no longer any of the kidding around I was accustomed to. He was all business and would remain that way from then on. I think he knew what I knew, and he knew I didn’t approve.
Training commenced in the hills around Girona much like before, though it didn’t last as long, which was surprising. After a short visit from Ferrari, whose presence was always pointedly kept on the down-low, Armstrong and Ferrari departed suddenly for Tenerife. Allison and I were left to our own devices, which was enjoyable, but in the back of my mind the various problems festered. I had to start examining the morality of my situation, which was clouded by emotional bonds.
I’d made a commitment to Armstrong, and I couldn’t walk away from that—though, looking back, I wish I had. I had self-interests, of course: a family to support, a mortgage. I had my own ghosts to answer to. I desperately needed this job to lead to the promised conclusion: the bike shop, which would have been an instant success, given my association with Armstrong.
Years earlier, when I’d walked away from a graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies, I’d had regrets about not finishing. To this day, I can still hear the voices of my parents saying, “You’ll make something of yourself one day. You’re smart.” Being a bike mechanic didn’t qualify. It’s a hard way to make a living in the best of times and a very difficult way to support a family. I could not go back and finish school. It would have been financially impossible. There seemed like no way out.
ONE LATE-SUMMER MORNING in 2004, the phone rang at my home in Austin. It was Russey.