The Cycle Life: The Armstrong Saga Continues

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The fallout from the latest round of doping accusations against Lance Armstrong continues this week as key players publicly stake out their positions and investigations spin ahead.

At issue is the tell-all interview with Tyler Hamilton that aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes on May 22. During the interview, Hamilton, who rode in support of Armstrong at the US Postal Service team from 1999 to 2001, admitted to using blood transfusions, EPO, and testosterone to bolster his performance when he was a pro, and he alleged that he had seen Armstrong using the same performance enhancers. Hamilton asserted that the team management and medical staff both encouraged and organized doping on the team, and he contended that Armstrong paid off the sport’s organizing body, the Union Cyclist Internationale (UCI), to cover up a drug test that Armstrong failed during the 2001 Tour de Suisse. Hamilton went on to say that, given his own involvement in doping, he had returned the gold medal he won in the time trial event during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

On the show, 60 Minutes anchor Scott Pelley, citing unnamed sources, also reported that George Hincapie has told federal investigators that he and Armstrong supplied one another with EPO and discussed using testosterone. Hincapie, who currently rides for BMC Racing Team, has refused to comment on the claims in light of the ongoing investigation.

Armstrong dismissed the charges on Twitter last week. “20+ year career. 500 drug controls worldwide, in and out of competition. Never a failed test. I rest my case,” he wrote. On Sunday, Mark Fabiani, counsel to Armstrong, responded directly to the 60 Minutes allegations in a statement: “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.”

On Tuesday, Cyclingnews reported that UCI president Hein Verbruggen categorically denied that the organization ever covered up a doping control for Armstrong. Verbruggen also defended the embattled Tour champ, saying, “Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never.” Viatcheslav Ekimov, who took silver at the Athens games and rode at US Postal and Discovery from 2000 to 2005, also rejected Hamilton’s allegations that Armstrong doped. Ekimov has said that he is willing to accept the gold medal that Hamilton has returned.

Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, Italian police searched the RadioShack team hotel at the Giro d’Italia on Monday’s second rest day. Officers also searched RadioShack’s vehicles at the Giro on Tuesday, reportedly as part of their investigation into Michele Ferrari, the embattled doctor tied to Lance Armstrong and fingered by Tyler Hamilton.

With no word from federal investigator Jeff Novitzky about a timeframe for the results of his investigation, it’s likely that the questions about whether or not Armstrong doped will continue to simmer for the foreseeable future.

–Aaron Gulley 

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