Lance Armstrong's RadioShack team may have just cemented an impressive win in the Tour of California on Sunday, but the retired Tour de France champion suffered what can only be described as a devastating moral defeat as one-time teammate Tyler Hamilton described well-detailed doping procedures by Armstrong and his team during an hour-long feature on 60 Minutes.
In the much-anticipated broadcast, Hamilton describes with precision numerous doping encounters between himself and Armstrong when the two rode together on the US Postal Service team between 1999-2001. And although some will discard Hamilton's account, since he has twice tested positive himself for performance enhancing drugs, the detail of his accounts promise to be problematic for the seven-time Tour winner.
What promises to be even more problematic for the Texan is that 60 Minutes does not base it claims just on Tyler Hamilton, but on other teammates like Frankie Andreu and George Hincapie, the only rider to ride with Armstrong in all seven of his Tour de France victories and a rider that Armstrong claimed was "like a brother." Though Hincapie's account comes from an unreported source, and Hincapie denies talking with 60 Minutes, according to the show, Hincapie also testified that "he and Armstrong supplied each other with EPO and discussed having used testosterone for upcoming races."
Hamilton's accounts, however, were the most detailed. Choosing to speak with 60 Minutes after testifying in front of a Grand Jury regarding doping in cycling, Hamilton maintains that he is simply repeating much of his testimony.
In the program, the 40-year-old Hamilton appeared gaunt and worn compared to the days when he was one of racing's top pros. But while he often appeared apologetic on Sunday, Hamilton held back little, if anything, of his knowledge and experience regarding doping in cycling, and more specifically, doping and Lance Armstrong.
Hamilton maintained that Armstrong sent him EPO via Fed Ex or DHL and that he saw Armstrong blood doping. He also claimed that Armstrong had a key role in the wide-spread doping that existed on the U.S. Postal Team; a nuance that could be vital in the federal investigation as it describes Armstrong as a perpetrator rather than simply a participant. In one anecdote, Hamilton even described how Armstrong dropped small doses of Andriol (a liquid form of testosterone) into Hamilton's mouth.
"The team management encouraged doping," Hamilton stated. "Lance was obviously the biggest rider on the team. He helped to call the shots. He obviously doped himself, like everybody else, he was part of the culture of the sport."
In what promises to be problematic for Armstrong as well as the International Cycling Union (UCI), Hamilton confirms reports by Floyd Landis, another former teammate and convicted doper, that Armstrong actually did fail a doping test in the 2001 Tour of Switzerland but that the test was covered over.
60 Minutes claims to have obtained a letter from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to the Swiss lab that conducted the test. The letter reveals that they found the initial Armstrong sample to be "suspicious" and "consistent with EPO use."
"I know he (Armstrong) had a positive test," Hamilton says of the 2001 Tour of Switzerland. "He was so relaxed about it . . . Lance's people, and I believe that people from the governing body of the sport (UCI), figured out a way for it to go away. I was told this by Lance."
According to 60 Minutes, Armstrong and his team director Johan Bruyneel met with the director in the Lausanne laboratory, Martial Saugy. Later, on two separate occasions, Armstrong made donations to the UCI anti-doping fund totaling $125,000, something current WADA president David Howman describes as "totally inappopriate."
Today in a press release, the Swiss labs still refutes any positive test.
Hamilton also revealed doping practices between Armstrong and the now-infamous Italian trainer and doctor, Michele Ferrari. Ferrari has been banned from the sport by Italian authorities and Armstrong claims to have broken all ties with him in 2004. But the Federal investigation allegedly is examining personal as well as financial ties between Armstrong and Ferrari that continued up until 2010.
"I can't say that I ever saw Michele Ferrari give Lance Armstrong performance-enhancing drugs, but I do know for a fact that they talked about performance-enhancing drugs and how to take it, when, who, why," Hamilton states. "Yes I heard it."
Hamilton of course knows that criticism from Armstrong will be swift, and if fact it already began. "I'm telling the truth. I'm telling the truth," he says directly. "I'm sure he'll come out with accusations. To Lance I feel bad that I had to go here and do this but a the end of the day I think the sport is going to be better off for it."
Some fans will criticize Hamilton, like Landis or Andreu. Some will state that current testimony shows only proof of perjury in previous doping cases. And some will recognize that some claims may even be valid. But they overlook one very big point. Neither Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Frankie Andreu, or George Hincapie are hardened criminals.
Quite the opposite, they are simply professional cyclists that have attempted to race their bicycles as best they knew how. But when faced with testifying in a case that goes far beyond doping in cycling - one that also entails fraud and conspiracy - they simply do not want to perjure themselves in front of a Grand Jury because they know anything but the truth would mean jail time.