- "We hid" from drug tests, cyclist Tyler Hamilton told doping investigators
- Tipoffs and timing helped conceal drug use as well, report finds
- Armstrong denies doping allegations
Blood transfusions. Saline injections. Back-dated prescriptions and tipoffs to coming tests.
Former teammates of cycling superstar Lance Armstrong recounted a wide range of techniques used to beat the sport's drug-testing regimen to investigators from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which released its findings on the seven-time Tour de France winner Wednesday. But perhaps the most effective one was the most low-tech: laying low.
"We hid," the report quotes former U.S. Postal Service team member Tyler Hamilton. "At the time, the whereabouts programs of drug testing agencies were not very robust." The sport's international governing body, the UCI, "did not even have an out of competition testing program. If a tester did show up, you typically would not get a missed test even if you decided not to answer the door. In any case, there was no penalty until you had missed three tests. So, avoiding testing was just one more way we gamed the system."
The team's staff "was good at being able to predict when riders would be tested and seemed to have inside information about the testing," states the nearly 200-page decision, which was backed by hundreds of pages of supporting documents.
During Armstrong's comeback attempt in 2009, his Astana team "benefited from privileged information or timing advantages during doping control tests." And in 2010, Armstrong himself "was providing untimely and incomplete whereabouts information to USADA, thereby making it more difficult to locate him for out of competition testing."
Armstrong has consistently denied doping accusations, and his lawyer called the USADA probe a "witch hunt" Wednesday. But he has stopped contesting the allegations, and he faces being stripped of his titles.
The riders also told of timing their use of erythropoietin, or EPO, which boosts the number of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the muscles, to avoid detection. The substance was undetectable before 2000 and currently can be detected only for a short time. The riders cut that time further by injecting it into a vein rather than under the skin, meaning it would be gone "in a matter of hours."
They used testosterone in much the same way, taking small doses at night so that they could pass a drug test the following morning. And they also had infusions of saline solution before a test, which throws off a test that measures red blood cell concentration.
That sometimes required fancy footwork, and there were some close calls, the riders said.
During the 1998 world cycling championships, a UCI tester showed up unannounced and started setting up at a bed and breakfast where Armstrong's team was staying. A team doctor went outside to their car, retrieved a bottle of saline "and smuggled it right past the UCI tester and into Armstrong's bedroom," the report states.
Teammate Jonathan Vaughters told investigators that they later "had a good laugh about how he had been able to smuggle in saline and administer it to Lance essentially under the UCI inspector's nose."