Was Armstrong too big to fail?
In his doping
Hamilton paints a picture of a testing cover-up at the 2001 Tour de Suisse, telling CBS that Armstrong told him that he failed a drug test there. The UCI, cycling's governing body, has denied there was any such cover-up, but another former teammate, Floyd Landis, made a similar allegation last year in letters to USA Cycling as federal officials began investigating whether Armstrong was involved in a doping operation while the team was receiving sponsorship money from the Postal Service. Armstrong has repeatedly denied ever taking a performance-enhancing drug, much less testing positive for one. But if the Tour de Suisse accusations prove true, it would underscore what many in cycling have asked for two decades: Was Armstrong too big to fail?
In 1999, while Armstrong was on his way to his first Tour victory after beating cancer, a French newspaper received a tip that Armstrong had tested positive for a corticosteroid and had no therapeutic use exemption (TUE) on his medical form. Armstrong, who was riding for the Postal team, had just said in a press conference that he did not have any prescriptions for banned products. When the team discovered that the newspaper had received the tip, panic hit Armstrong and his inner-circle, according to Emma O'Reilly, a soigneur from Ireland who worked with the team and specifically with Armstrong. She was in the hotel room after the 15th Tour stage when, she says, Armstrong and team officials devised a plan.
"They agreed to backdate a medical prescription," O'Reilly tells SI. "They'd gotten a heads up that [Armstrong's] steroid count was high and decided they would actually do a backdated prescription and pretend it was something for saddle sores."
In violation of its own protocol requiring a TUE for use of such a drug, officials from the UCI announced that Armstrong had used a corticosteroid for his skin and his positive result was excused. O'Reilly also told SI that, just before the start of the '99 Tour, Armstrong asked her to use some of her cosmetics to cover up injection marks on his arm, though O'Reilly does not know what substance Armstrong had injected. O'Reilly made these same allegations in a 2004 book about Armstrong, published only in French, called
As early as 1993, Armstrong's testing data as a member of Team USA was aberrational. As
In August 2005, Armstrong watched his 1999 Tour de France title fall under scrutiny again when the French sports daily