Lance Armstrong is credited with bringing awareness to the global fight against cancer and ushering in a new era of professional cycling, performing at superhuman levels while deftly deflecting doping allegations like the late-race challenges of so many competitors.
Since turning professional in 1992 Armstrong has never tested positive for using performance enhancing drugs. But his unprecedented success – seven consecutive Tour de France wins – has made him the target of a constant barrage of doping allegations.
In the latest, Mr. Landis, a former teammate of Armstrong's, accuses him and longtime coach Johan Bruyneel of sophisticated cover-up schemes designed to keep them a step ahead of the International Cycling Union (UCI) and antidoping authorities.
Armstrong took time from a California stop on the cycling tour Thursday to dismiss the allegations, saying that Landis had changed his story many times and was not credible.
Landis is largely disgraced within the cycling community for being the first winner of the Tour de France to be stripped of his title for doping. He had spent $2 million trying to refute those doping allegations until recently. He told ESPN Wednesday that he was guilty and that he needed to clear his conscience. The Wall Street Journal published a fuller account of his confession Thursday.
This isn't the first time those close to Armstrong have been caught or admitted doping. In 2006, two former teammates of Armstrong's from the 1999 Tour de France came forward and said they had used banned endurance-enhancing drug EPO in the lead-up to that year's Tour, and felt pressured to do so by US Postal Service team for which they and Armstrong rode. [Editor's note: The original version had Armstrong riding for the wrong team.]
In that instance, World Anti-Doping Agency Chairman Dick Pound was quoted in the New York Times implying that Armstrong was also involved. "I think you have to draw one conclusion from that. It certainly indicates that there were a whole bunch of people around him using drugs," he said. "It doesn’t prove that he did anything, but you look all around him and everyone else is doing it, so what should you think?”
Armstrong has vehemently denied all accusations that he took performance enhancing drugs at any time in his career, and has gone to court to defend his name. In 2004, "L.A. Confidentiel," a book published in France by sportswriters Pierre Ballester and David Walsh, used testimony from a former masseuse of Armstrong's to allege that he had taken performance enhancing drugs.
Armstrong sued unsuccessfully to have a denial inserted in the book and filed a libel suit against Britain's Sunday Times when it reprinted portions of it, eventually settling with the newspaper out of court. The same year, Armstrong's cut ties with Italian doctor Michele Ferrari after he was implicated in doping allegations which were later dropped.
I have "zero tolerance for anyone convicted of using or facilitating the use of performance-enhancing drugs," Armstrong said at the time.
Landis's new allegations published in the Wall Street Journal – that Armstrong helped teach him the doping ropes in professional cycling – are some of the most high-profile Armstrong has faced, but they come without evidence, and from a figure widely discredited in the cycling community.
“[Landis] already made those accusations in the past,” UCI chairman Pat McQuaid told the AP. “Armstrong has been accused many times in the past but nothing has been proved against him. And in this case, I have to question the guy’s credibility. There is no proof of what he says. We are speaking about a guy who has been condemned for doping before a court.”
From the Tour of California Thursday, Armstrong and Mr. Bruyneel downplayed Landis's allegations and questioned his character. "This is a man that has been [under] oath several times.… This is somebody that wrote a book, under a different premise…. The story changes," Armstrong said. The allegations are "not even worth getting into," he said, adding, "I think his story speaks for itself."
Bruyneel questioned the timing of the Journal story's release. Landis "finally found somebody who wanted to write this story," Bruyneel said, adding that the e-mails had been circling for weeks and that Landis and his current team had been fighting to get into the Tour of California. "Coming from Floyd," Bruyneel said, "it's no surprise."