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Lance Armstrong: The Whistleblowers
Sat Aug 25, 2012
"I wrote four books about the guy. All the evidence was out there since 2004 and people will still say there is no evidence. To me there was a willful conspiracy on the part of sporting officials, journalists, broadcasters, everybody. Now we see the fruits of it: high-level cycling has been destroyed by corruption.
"I would have preferred it if Lance Armstrong had gone to a tribunal and we would have had all the evidence out there. But he has decided to accept these charges because it was the lesser of two evils from his perspective.
"It is not good for him because he has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and has been given a lifetime ban. He has lost every victory he has had since 1998, but the alternative was even worse – to have a tribunal in which the evidence from 10 former team-mates who all say they saw him doping would have been aired in graphic detail.
"That detail would have portrayed Lance Armstrong as a doper. It would have opened the eyes of the public to what the US Anti-Doping Agency believe was one of the greatest, most sophisticated doping conspiracies in the history of sport.
"How did Armstrong get away with this for all these years? Who was complicit in helping him avoid detection? Because there is one certainty – he did not do this without help.
"Bradley Wiggins is the patron of the Tour and the whole sport. As the winner, he is the spiritual and almost moral leader of the peloton. As an anti-doping Tour winner, I would expect Bradley to say this is good for the sport … we want the guys who cheated to be outed, but there is not a lot of that coming from the sport and that makes me wonder if they are truly committed to cleaning themselves up."
David Walsh, author and sportswriter on the Sunday Times, has written four books on Lance Armstrong.
As Lance Armstrong's masseuse, Emma O' Reilly saw much of the cyclist's body and spent a lot of time with him after his races. She was also a key member of the US Postal cycling team during the 1999 Tour de France and was given important tasks.
O'Reilly was a source for David Walsh's book about Armstrong, LA Confidentiel. According to the book, O'Reilly said she heard team officials worrying about Armstrong's positive test for steroids during the Tour. She said: "They were in a panic, saying: 'What are we going to do? What are we going to do?' "
Their solution was to get one of their compliant doctors to issue a pre-dated prescription for a steroid-based ointment to combat saddle sores. O'Reilly said she would have known if Armstrong had saddle sores as she would have administered any treatment for it.
O'Reilly said that Armstrong told her: "Now, Emma, you know enough to bring me down." O'Reilly said on other occasions she was asked to dispose of used syringes for Armstrong and pick up strange parcels for the team.
In a letter to Bill Strickland, a Bicycling magazine correspondent, last year, O'Reilly described her experience. "Since I spoke to David Walsh, I have received so many subpoenas that the policewoman who brought them got friendly enough with my boyfriend that she would call before coming and he'd put the kettle on for her.
"If my word is so worthless, why did I go to France and testify to the French drug squad? I worked the '98 Tour de France, and I know how scary these guys can be, yet I was prepared to go to France, to their territory. I went because I was telling the truth, and also because a certain Mr Armstrong sued me for a million euros because of my interview with David … why did Lance feel the need to terrorise me for more than two years? Why did Lance feel the need to try to break me?"
Christophe Bassons became an accidental star of road cycling when he was the only member of the notorious Festina team who was not implicated in drug-taking. His reputation as an honest cyclist made it impossible for him to prosper in the world of professional cycling in the 1990s.
Festina was immersed in scandal in 1998 when a carload of drugs for the team was discovered. In the subsequent police investigation, Bassons was the one rider who emerged with his character enhanced after his team-mates told police that he was the only cyclist who did not take drugs.
From obscurity, Bassons emerged as one of the few cyclists who would criticise drug-taking in the sport. He spoke for many when he complained that the sport had "two speeds", one for the drug-takers and one for people like who him who did not cheat.
During the 1999 Tour de France Bassons was asked to write a column for the newspaper, Le Parisen. The Tour featured the return of Lance Armstrong after his battle with cancer. Basson wrote that the riders were shocked by the speed of Armstrong. Armstrong later cycled up to Bassons to remonstrate with him and encouraged him to leave the Tour. Later on French TV, Armstrong admitted the conversation. "His accusations aren't good for cycling, for his team, for me, for anybody. If he thinks cycling works like that, he's wrong and he would be better off going home," he said.
Other riders threatened him and most ignored him. Bassons could not take the pressure and left the Tour.
Bassons tried to race elsewhere but his reputation preceded him and he gave up in 2001. The cyclist had been a very successful amateur rider but his professional career was overshadowed by his refusal to take drugs and remain quiet about it. He now works for the French ministry of sports and youth, with responsibility for drug testing.
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