Lance Armstrong paid for a motorcyclist to deliver the banned bloodbooster EPO to him during the 1999 Tour de France, former teammate Tyler Hamilton said in a BBC radio documentary broadcast on Monday.
Armstrong of the US, who won the Tour a record seven times from 1999 to 2005, has been stripped of his titles by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), who have accused the 41-year-old of being a central figure in an elaborate doping conspiracy.
“Yeah, in ’99 we had a motorcycle driver ... we had him follow the Tour around for the better part of three weeks,” said Hamilton, who was one of Armstrong’s US Postal Service teammates from 1998 to 2001.
“He’d stay close enough to where we were staying at the hotels to drop off at any key moment. We knew other people were going to take risks, so we were gonna take it too,” added Hamilton, who said they put the used syringes into drinks cans, before crushing them.
“Lance paid him between US$15,000, US$20,000 to do it. Then, as Lance had won the Tour, we would all club together to buy him a Rolex watch. Somewhere out there he’s wearing a gold Rolex watch,” he said.
Hamilton, who was stripped of the 2004 Olympic time trial gold medal, gave evidence to the USADA inquiry, which published its findings in a report last week and concluded Armstrong was one of the ringleaders in US Postal’s sophisticated doping scheme.
Armstrong has always denied taking banned substances, but decided not to challenge the USADA charges.
The American’s team manager during his Tour wins, Johan Bruyneel, is among four other people accused of doping violations by USADA. Bruyneel is contesting the case.
Armstrong’s former soigneur (masseuse and assistant) at US Postal, Emma O’Reilly, who also gave evidence to USADA, told the BBC how she once drove from France to Spain to pick up some tablets for Armstrong.
“I had to rent a car in France ... Took six hours to drive and also that was another reason I knew it was something, because Lance had said to me: ‘Don’t tell your boyfriend,’” O’Reilly said.
“I used to say to some of the soigneurs: ‘You are drug runners,’ and that’s what I was being for the weekend,” added O’Reilly, who also said she once used makeup to conceal syringe marks on Armstrong before a photocall.
In 2003, O’Reilly spoke to journalist David Walsh about doping for a book on Armstrong coauthored with Pierre Ballester. Armstrong sued her for libel.
“Afterwards, oh my, I’ve never felt more hunted in my whole life,” O’Reilly said.
“There were lawsuits that affected not just me, but other people, like my boyfriend. The libel laws protected him, the rich, while I was dragged through the courts. I knew Lance was bullying me and all I was trying to do was clean up the sport,” she said.
British rider David Millar, banned for two years in 2004 for doping, said he was confident cycling had changed for the better.
“Cycling has moved on so far in the last five years, through the incredible hard work of a lot of people who wanted to change things,” said the 35-year-old, who is a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s athletes’ commission.
“This is a scoop to the general public, but we’ve known things for so long. If you want to make change in sport, you do it yourself,” he said.
“We have to close this door on this horrific period for the sport. We have moved on. Things have got progressively better. We are at the vanguard of the anti-doping movement,” Millar added.
“Cycling has pushed through the most advanced anti-doping testing and we were the first sport to introduce blood tests. The problem was so vast and we were all culpable on different levels,” he said.