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A TIMES INVESTIGATION

Allegations Trail Armstrong Into Another Stage

The seven-time Tour de France champion steadfastly maintains he never used drugs to boost performance. Sworn testimony in a legal dispute asserted he did.

July 09, 2006|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

LeMond testified Armstrong said to him in that call, " 'Oh, come on. You're telling me you never did EPO? Everybody does EPO.' "

Again, Armstrong adamantly denied that he used EPO or that he had such a conversation with LeMond.

"I would not admit to a doctor or a friend or Greg LeMond that I had taken a substance when I have never taken them," Armstrong testified during the hearings in January.

In an earlier deposition, Armstrong also said LeMond's version of the call and his own recollection were "completely opposite ... because Greg, who I know has serious drinking and drug problems, is -- was clearly intoxicated, yelling, screaming."

In a telephone interview, LeMond said, "I have never been treated for alcoholism. I have never been treated for drug addiction. Have I been drunk in my life? Absolutely. You go to a bike race, everybody's drinking. Do I have a drinking problem? Absolutely not. That is just his way of trashing me."

LeMond declined to comment further.

In the end, the sometimes wildly conflicting testimony provided during the Texas hearings never had to be reconciled by the panel of impartial judges. Both sides agreed to settle at the close of testimony.

The legal dispute centered on a contract between Armstrong and SCA Promotions. The company had agreed to pay the racer a $5-million bonus if he won the 2004 race, his sixth in succession, but the firm threatened to back out when questions arose about possible doping.

Armstrong sued in a Texas court and the case was sent to arbitration.

In a key decision prior to settlement, the arbitration judges ruled that SCA was acting as an insurer -- a role that exposed it to potential triple damages, at least $15 million, if it lost the suit.

The $7.5-million settlement SCA paid to Armstrong included interest and attorney fees.

Throughout the hearings Armstrong asserted that he always competed drug-free throughout his career, including the 1999 race.

"I'll go to my grave knowing that when I urinated in the bottle, it was clean," he testified in January.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Evidence of a banned substance?

Archived urine samples from the 1999 Tour de France were later retested for the presence of synthetic erythropoietin, or EPO, which can boost an athlete's performance by increasing the oxygen available to muscles. Samples allegedly taken from winner Lance Armstrong at various points along the 2,290-mile route showed the probable presence of EPO in the 2004 tests, according to testimony and evidence in Texas arbitration hearings.

Results of the tests

A blood doping expert retained by litigants in the arbitration case testified that his analysis of EPO tests found results consistent with a series of injections during the Tour. A reading of 80% or higher was considered positive for EPO.

Prologue, July 3: 2004 analysis of sample taken after this 4.2-mile sprint showed reading of 100%. Such a level is consistent with an injection within hours of the race.

Stage 1, July 4: 89.7%.

Stage 8, July 11: The next sample tested was from this 34.8-mile time trial. A positive reading via "visual interpretation" but no percentage reported.

Stage 9, July 13: 96.6%. The first mountain stage.

Stage 10, July 14: 88.7%.

Stage 11, July 15: Missing.

Stage 12, July 16: 95.2%.

Stage 13, July 17: Positive reading via visual interpretation but no percentage reported.

Stage 14, July 18: 89.4%.

Stages 15-20, July 20-25: EPO levels undetectable. The retained expert called these results consistent with what would be expected in an athlete who had ceased taking EPO injections.

Armstrong's cycling career

1993: First full season as a professional cyclist. Crowned world champion in Oslo. Earns one stage win in Tour de France, but fails to make it to the end, pulling out of the race in the mountains.

1994: Best result this year is a second place in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

1995: Wins several one-day cycling events, including the premier U.S. cycling event, the Tour DuPont. After Armstrong's teammate Fabio Casartelli crashes and dies during the Tour de France, Armstrong wins one stage but finishes 36th overall.

1996: Wins Tour DuPont again. But he abandons the Tour de France and has a disappointing Olympic Games prior to receiving a diagnosis of testicular cancer in October. Doctors give him a 50% chance of survival after the cancer spreads to his lungs and brain.

1997: Declared cancer free and joins U.S. Postal team in October.

1998: Returns to cycling.

1999: First Tour de France victory.

2000: Tour de France win No. 2.

2001: Tour de France win No. 3.

2002: Tour de France win No. 4.

2003: Tour de France win No. 5.

2004: Record-breaking sixth Tour de France victory.

2005: Armstrong announces he will retire from cycling after the Tour de France, which he wins for a seventh consecutive time.

Testing positive, by sport

Cycling produced the most positive tests for banned substances of any Olympic sport, according to a 2005 report. The sport also yielded the highest percentage of positive tests. Here is a look at some of the figures, made public June 12:

*--* Tested Number % positive positive tested Cycling 482 12,751 3.78% Baseball 390 10,580 3.69 Boxing 83 2,433 3.41 Triathlon 74 2,170 3.41 Archery 25 850 2.94

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Sources: Transcripts of arbitration hearing testimony by Michael Ashenden in Lance Armstrong vs. SCA Promotions, Inc.; 1999 Tour doping control forms; 1999 Tour map, stage distances from www.memoire-du-cyclisme; Tour de France Society; US Geological Survey; Landsat Imagery; BBC Sport; Tour de France; World Anti-Doping Agency

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