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Just when it had gone quiet on the Lance Armstrong front for a while, The New York Times has opened a new can of worms by printing admissions from two former US Postal riders that they used the blood-boosting product EPO during their preparation for the 1999 Tour de France. Armstrong took the first of his seven consecutive Tour titles that year.
Frankie Andreu is one of the riders who has admitted to EPO use, while the identity of the second rider, who also rode the Tour that year, remains under wraps. Andreu, 39, who still works in the sport for television network OLN, told the New York Times he used EPO for just a few races, but has been pressed to speak out about it because of the damage that doping has done the sport in recent months. "There are two levels of guys," Andreu said. "You got the guys that cheat and guys that are just trying to survive."
The other rider, who is also reported to work within the cycling industry, stated: "The environment was certainly one of, to be accepted, you had to use doping products. There was very high pressure to be one of the cool kids."
Both ex-riders said they felt they were obliged to take EPO to make the Tour team in 1999, although Andreu would not specify when he took the drug, and the anonymous rider said he did not use EPO during the Tour. Both former riders said they never saw Armstrong take any banned substances.
The NYT were unable to reach Armstrong for comment, but the story only adds fire to the allegations that came out of France earlier this year that a sample Armstrong is suggested to have given during the 1999 Tour showed traces of EPO. That accusation came from French paper L'Equipe following research work done on samples from the 1999 Tour conducted at the Chatenay Malabry laboratory in Paris.
Former Motorola team doctor Max Testa did speak to the New York Times about his concerns regarding EPO use during the mid-1990s. Testa, now a sports medicine specialist at the University of California at Davis, explained he had given the team's riders literature about EPO and urged them not to take the drug.
"If you want to use a gun, you had better use a manual, rather than to ask the guy on the street how to use it," he said. "I cannot rule out that someone did it."
To see a full transcript of the New York Times story go to http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/12/sports/othersports/12cycling.html?_r=2&ref=sports&pagewanted=all
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