Lance Armstrong won a $1 million prize as a 21-year-old rookie. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Italian cyclist Roberto Gaggioli said Lance Armstrong gave him $100,000 as part of an agreement to let Armstrong win a race 20 years ago, according to Agence France-Presse translating comments in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
"It was a young American colleague," Gaggioli, now 51, said. "He offered me a panettone [a traditional Italian Christmas cake] as a present and wished me a merry Christmas. In the box there were $100,000 in small bills. That colleague was Lance Armstrong.
"Lance said that my team, Coors Light, had agreed to it. I understood that it had all been decided."
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The payment came before the CoreStates race in Philadelphia, which, combined with the Pittsburgh Classic and West Virginia Classic, comprised the Thrift Drug Triple Crown that came with a $1 million prize, at the time the richest in the history of cycling.
Armstrong, who was riding for the Motorola team, was a 21-year-old rookie at the time.
"Two laps from the end, I was in a breakaway with Lance, Bobby Julich and some Italian riders from the Mercatone team," Gaggioli said, adding that Armstrong paid off other riders as well. "When Lance made a sign, I turned away as if not to see that he had escaped. He broke away to win on his own."
This is not the first time Armstrong has been accused of trying to fix races. In January 2006, New Zealand rider Stephen Swart gave a sworn deposition that Armstrong and another Motorola teammate offered him $50,000 to let them win the triple crown series.
Swart later joined the Motorola team.