In a September 2006 interview, Frankie Andreu told the New York Times that he had taken EPO in the past, while still a member of Armstrong's team. He said it was time to clean up cycling. It was the year of the scandal surrounding Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, who had helped many top pros with blood doping.
Suddenly Armstrong's seven Tour victories were bookended by two doping scandals. The Festina affair almost destroyed the Tour in 1998, and now the Fuentes ring was being exposed. And between those two scandals, Lance Armstrong was supposed to have conquered the world's toughest cycling race without the use of banned substances?
By now, Richard Young, the USADA lawyer, had become heavily involved with cycling. Tyler Hamilton was banned in 2005 for homologous blood doping and the next season, Floyd Landis, a former member of the US Postal team like Hamilton, tested positive for testosterone at the Tour de France. When he was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, Landis did everything he could to get it back.
The nine-day arbitration hearing in Malibu, California, was broadcast live on television. Young appeared in public as the representative of USADA, a tall, lanky man who resembles the actor Walter Matthau, with thick, dark hair and a knack for punch lines. The case was a gamble for USADA, which ran the risk of ruining its reputation -- and losing a lot of money. It was an uphill battle for Young, who had to argue against attorneys and expert witnesses who had cost Landis millions. Nevertheless, USADA won the case and Landis was barred from professional cycling for two years.
He eventually went bankrupt. His attempt to uphold the lie of the clean athlete ruined him.
VIII. OBAMA HAD NO TIME FOR ARMSTRONG
After retiring from professional cycling in late 2005, Armstrong devoted himself primarily to his cancer foundation. He collected donations, was paid six-figure speaking fees and his sponsors helped fill the foundation's coffers. Politicians appeared at his side, including President George W. Bush, with whom Armstrong went mountain biking. Armstrong ran the New York Marathon, pursued by cameras. He was engaged to rock star Sheryl Crow for five months, and he was on friendly terms with Bill Gates. He had become an A-list celebrity.
A conference on fighting cancer was scheduled for July 2008 in Austin, and Armstrong wanted then Senator Barack Obama as his star guest. But Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate at the time, was on his campaign tour through Europe and had no time for Armstrong's event. Armstrong was furious and called Obama's fellow Democrat, Senator John Kerry, threatening to turn the members of his foundation against Obama. He had become so overcome by hubris that he no longer took no for an answer.
Armstrong was especially adept at using new media to polish his image. He tweeted almost daily under his own name, but he also used the Spanish-sounding pseudonym Juan Pelota. Pelota means ball in Spanish, and Americans pronounce the name "Juan" like "one." The man who called himself "one ball" (a testicle had been removed during his cancer operation) was showing that he had a sense of self-irony.
He announced his comeback as a professional cyclist in the fall, once more becoming subject to doping tests as a result. When a doping control officer with the French anti-doping agency came to his villa in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat to collect urine, blood, fingernail and hair samples, Armstrong had him wait outside for 20 minutes. It was a violation of the rules, because Armstrong was required to remain under supervision once the testers arrived. But there were no consequences. Instead, UCI President Pat McQuaid criticized the French action, calling it "not very professional."
Armstrong came in third in the Tour that year. Many in cycling were pleased to have their superstar back. Doors were flung open for him everywhere he went. French President Nicolas Sarkozy received Armstrong at the Elysée Palace in July 2010. Soon afterwards, the budget of the National Anti-Doping Laboratory in Paris was cut in half. Its director Pierre Bordry, who had ordered strict testing of the pro cyclists during the Tour, resigned in frustration. Armstrong despised Bordry.
"Au revoir Pierre", he tweeted.
No one, it seemed, could touch him. But was that really true?
IX. THE HUNT FOR ARMSTRONG
US federal authorities investigated Armstrong and his former racing team for almost two years. They suspected the team of having misused taxpayer money for doping purposes, because the US Postal Service, the team sponsor for many years, is a US government agency. On Feb. 3, 2012, a district attorney in California terminated the investigation, but without stating any reasons.
It looked like a big win for Armstrong. "Our legal system has failed," Betsy Andreu said angrily. "That's what happens when someone can afford attorneys with connections at the very top of the Justice Department."
What no one knew at the time was that things were about to get tight for Armstrong. In May 2010, Floyd Landis admitted to having used banned substances throughout his career, adding that Armstrong had done the same. A year later, Tyler Hamilton confessed on television, saying that he had doped, and that he had also seen Lance using performance-enhancing drugs.
This was first-hand information from two new sources now incriminating Armstrong. USADA wanted to take action. It had held back during the government's investigation of Armstrong, so as not to get in the way of law enforcement. But now there was nothing to stop the agency anymore.
USADA issued a statement on the day the federal authorities' investigation was terminated. To protect clean cycling, the statement read, USADA would continue its work against doping and ask the authorities for information about the case. It sounded diplomatic, but it was essentially a declaration of war against Armstrong.
USADA had a plan, developed mainly by three men: CEO Travis Tygart, Bill Bock, the agency's general counsel and an expert on professional cycling, and attorney Richard Young as legal strategist. They knew whose testimony they wanted. Their list included the Andreus, Landis and Hamilton, but also new witnesses, such as former members of Armstrong's team who had thus far been silent: George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie, Jonathan Vaughters and others.
They made rapid progress. Tygart and Bock conducted most of the interviews. Young ensured that no mistakes were made that could potentially destroy their case from a legal standpoint, and he also prepared the indictment. The USADA team asked federal authorities if they could review their files, but it was a decision that required a judge's approval, which would take time. Nevertheless, many witnesses told them that they had already spoken with the FBI. People had begun to talk, partly because they knew that the case was to be heard in an arbitration court, in which lying under oath is considered perjury, a crime punishable with a jail sentence. Going to prison for Lance, even for his former buddies, was taking loyalty a step too far.
On June 13, USADA announced that it intended to file a suit in an arbitration court. From then on, there was no going back for Armstrong's pursuers.
"We had enough evidence for a solid case," Young says now. "But Armstrong had unlimited financial funds and was willing to use them. We had to prepare ourselves for a hell of a fight with someone who has the reputation as a fighter. So, before you pull the trigger on such a case you take a deep breath -- oookayyy!"
Tygart received anonymous death threats, and Armstrong accused him of pursuing a "vendetta." In an 18-page letter from his attorneys, Armstrong also demanded that USADA drop the charges. A US congressman said that he suspected the agency of wasting taxpayer money with its investigations.
It seemed as though Armstrong was resorting to all of his connections. But it was too late.
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