The Fraud Part II Lance Armstrong Succumbs to Doping History
Lance Armstrong's admission to having used performance enhancing drugs had become unavoidable in recent months. No matter how vociferously he denied doping, the evidence that his hero status had been illicitly obtained was overwhelming. By SPIEGEL Staff
Note to Readers: This is part II of a two-part story on Lance Armstrong and his history of using performance enhancing drugs. Please click here to read part I.
When the Tour de France began on July 8, 2001, an article appeared in the London Sunday Times in which Irish journalist David Walsh reported on Lance Armstrong's connections to the doping doctor Michele Ferrari, a sports doctor from Ferrara, who was nicknamed "Dottore EPO" in Italy. In it, Greg LeMond, a three-time American winner of the Tour de France, expressed his doubts that Armstrong was clean. "If Lance is clean, it is the greatest comeback in the history of sport. If he isn't, it would be the greatest fraud," he said. Armstrong responded by publicly berating Walsh as a "fucking troll." He called LeMond and threatened to expose him as a doper and said that he had witnesses who would support his story.
It was an early crack in the wall of secrecy with which Armstrong had surrounded himself and, most of all, his systematic use of performance enhancing drugs. It was a system that allowed him and his teammates at US Postal to remain at the top of the cycling world for years. But as an increasing number of professional riders were caught doping, Armstrong had to be increasingly careful. (Read part I of this story here.)
VI. ARMSTRONG'S ADVERSARY
Over the years, Armstrong's two worlds began to drift apart. In the one world, the attractive one, he rode from one victory to the next in the Tour de France, slowly becoming a legend. In 2003, he fought an epic duel with German rider Jan Ullrich. During one stage, Armstrong became entangled in a spectator's bag and crashed, but he won the Tour nonetheless. The images were powerful, making it difficult for those who openly spoke about suspicions that Armstrong doped. They showed a man who, despite the pain of pushing himself to the limit, was stronger than that pain. Could such a man really be an imposter?
Armstrong benefited from the lax doping tests. Furthermore, he participated in a limited number of races, focusing primarily on the Tour de France, which significantly reduced the number of tests he was exposed to. The UCI also largely spared the pro cyclists unannounced tests during training. The risk of being taken by surprise somewhere was close to zero.
His team also refined its warning system. During the Tour, two observers would sit at the windows in the hotel and would notify the team members when testers turned up. The riders also trusted their crafty team director Johan Bruyneel, who often knew hours or even days in advance when testers were going to appear. No one knew where Bruyneel was getting his tips.
If there was any trouble, if something did go wrong, the boss took care of it. In 2001, a blood test taken from Armstrong during the Tour de Suisse revealed suspicious results, a clear sign for doping analysts. But there was no official investigation. Soon afterwards, Armstrong donated $25,000 to the UCI, and later another $100,000, allegedly to support its efforts to fight doping. To ensure that no one would hit upon the idea that Armstrong was trying to bribe the officials, UCI honorary President Hein Verbruggen said in 2011: "Lance Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never. I say this not because I am a friend of his, because that is not true. I say it because I'm sure." Verbruggen has since denied having made the statement, though it was widely reported at the time.
The French book "L.A. Confidentiel: Les secrets de Lance Armstrong," co-authored by David Walsh, was published at the beginning of the 2004 Tour. It offered a look into the second world of Lance Armstrong -- the hidden one -- including details of how he cheated. The book includes a description of the scene at the hospital in Indianapolis. Armstrong suspected the Andreus, especially Betsy, of having been sources for the book. And indeed, Walsh had contacted the couple while doing his research, and Frankie had even told Armstrong about it. But now Armstrong began pressuring his former teammate. During the Tour, two managers from his staff met with Andreu and advised him to convince his wife to write a written statement denying what she knew.
The situation became complicated for Andreu. On the one hand, there were his old ties to Armstrong. On the other, he supported Betsy, who had no intention of signing any statement that amounted to a lie. Privately, Andreu chose his wife and the truth.
"Back then in the hospital, Lance was a friend who was fighting for his life," he says today. "I didn't want to use that against him."
But the moment was approaching in which he would have to openly take sides.
VII. TROUBLE AT THE ANDREUS
In August 2005, shortly after Armstrong's last Tour victory, the sports newspaper L'Equipe reported on suspicious test results from 1999. Traces of EPO had apparently been discovered in six of Armstrong's frozen blood samples when they were retested. After his record-breaking victory in 2004, Armstrong was entitled to a $10 million bonus. The US Postal team had insured half of the funds with a company called SCA Promotions, but now the company was refusing to pay out the money. SCA searched for any information that could help expose Armstrong's use of performance enhancing drugs and support its case in court.
The scene that had unfolded at the Indiana University Hospital nine years earlier was now of paramount importance. On Oct. 25, Betsy and Frankie Andreu were expected to testify under oath about what had happened.
They were willing to tell all, but then there was an argument within the family. Betsy's father, a man who had been bitterly poor before emigrating to the US from Yugoslavia, was adamant that his daughter should not sully the reputation of an American hero. Frankie's father was also concerned and asked them to find a way to get around testifying. The Andreus were shocked to realize that their parents were trying to encourage them to lie or keep quiet.
Three days before the hearing, Armstrong called and, in a friendly voice, made it clear to Frankie that no one else was going to confirm what had happened in the hospital in Indianapolis. He even traveled to Michigan on the day of the hearing. When they met, Armstrong was cheerful and non-threatening, and even showed them photos of his children, as if they were still the best of friends. The Andreus saw the awkward charm offensive as an attempt to win them over. But it didn't stop them from testifying about what they had heard in the hospital.
Armstrong himself was called to testify on Nov. 30. He sat in front of the camera, wearing a white shirt and with his arms crossed, self-confidently denying all accusations. He stated under oath that he had never received any performance-enhancing drugs from Ferrari and that he had never doped in his career. He no longer had anything nice to say about the Andreus. When asked about Betsy, he said: "She hates me."
The insurance company lost the case and Armstrong collected his bonus.
Life became difficult for the couple as Frankie was shunned in the cycling world. He lost jobs and money became tight. He and his wife coped with the situation in different ways. Betsy wanted to shout her anger about injustice in the world from the rooftops, while Frankie preferred to ignore the bad news, saying it wasn't worth it. But despite their fierce arguments, which sometimes led to their not speaking with each other for days, they managed to pull themselves together. Hardly anyone was on their side anymore. Betsy's father refused to speak with his daughter for years.