Cycling: Armstrong was 'two years ahead' of drug game

Lance Armstrong, branded a drug cheat by the US Anti-Doping Agency, has taken another battering from former teammate Tyler Hamilton, who has alleged institutional doping at the US Postal Service team.

Hamilton made the claims in his book, In The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs, extracts of which were published in The Times, in which he lays bare the doping culture he witnessed in the sport.

Hamilton said he and Armstrong's former team were "two years ahead of what everybody else was doing" in terms of doping.

The American also accused his compatriot and 1998-2001 teammate of devising an elaborate plan to have his gardener and odd-job man "Philippe" deliver vials of banned blood-boosting drug EPO, codenamed Edgar, during the Tour de France to make sure no team member could be caught out with it in their possession.

Hamilton said in his book: "We were standing in Lance's kitchen when he lined out the plan: he would pay Philippe to follow the Tour on his motorcycle, carrying a thermos full of EPO and a prepaid cell phone.

"When we needed Edgar (EPO), Philippe would zip through the Tour's traffic and make a drop-off.

"Simple. Quick - in and out. No risk. To be discreet, Philippe would be supplying only the climbers, the ones who needed it most and would provide the biggest bang for the buck: Lance, Kevin Livingston, and me. Los Amigos del Edgar.

"From that moment on, Philippe wasn't Philippe the handyman anymore. Lance, Kevin, and I called him Motoman," Hamilton said, adding that Livingston had never commented publicly on doping matters and did not respond to interview requests for the book.

Hamilton added: "Lance practically glowed when he told me about the plan - he loved this kind of MacGyver secret agent stuff. The French could search us all day long and they'd find zero. And besides, we felt sure that most of the other teams would be doing their own version of Motoman. Why wouldn't they?

"Lance had come back from cancer; he wasn't about to sit back and hope things worked out; he was going to make it happen."

The latest raft of allegations follow USADA's announcement that Armstrong would be banned for life and his results since 1998 - including seven Tour titles won from 1999-2005 - expunged due to "numerous" anti-doping violations, including playing a role in trafficking and administering performance-enhancing drugs to other athletes.

The agency's move followed Armstrong's own announcement that he would no longer seek to clear his name through independent arbitration.

Armstrong, who has vehemently denied doping during his career, has questioned USADA's authority to ban him, and the UCI has demanded a full account of the agency's findings.

Hamilton poured scorn on the drug testing carried out, however, saying: "They weren't drug tests. They were more like discipline tests, IQ tests.

"If you were careful and paid attention, you could dope and be 99 per cent certain that you would not get caught.

"They've got their doctors, and we've got ours, and ours are better. Better paid, for sure."

- AFP

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