Betsy Andreu was an inconvenient woman. At a time when a fawning media competed to compose paeans to Lance Armstrong (for years, I was at the forefront of that too-credulous crowd), she struck a discordant note. If we were enterprising enough to search for it, she told us, we would find that there was more to Armstrong's story than met the eye. It really
The wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, she is a whip-smart graduate of the University of Michigan. She is well-spoken, often funny and occasionally profane, such as when the subject of her nemesis arises.
"I think your yellow bracelet is cutting off the supply of oxygen to your brain," she once e-mailed me, after reading one of my Lance stories and finding it overly favorable. (For the record, I never wore a yellow Livestrong bracelet.)
I met her in the spring of 2007. SI had come into possession of depositions from a lawsuit in which she'd given testimony. She had recalled in detail an incident in an Indiana hospital room which, if true, called Armstrong's then-immaculate image into question. Doctors had asked Armstrong if he'd ever used performance-enhancing drugs. To their surprise, Betsy recalled, Armstrong said yes, and ticked off no fewer than five PEDs.
Armstrong had mistakenly assumed that Betsy would subscribe to the omerta, or code of silence, which bound the riders in the peloton on pharmacological matters. When it become clear that she could not be cajoled or intimidated into silence, Team Lance went with Plan B. They questioned her sanity and assassinated her character -- never for attribution.
Paying a call on the Chez Andreu in Dearborn, Mich., I was greeted by an effervescent, smiling mother of three young children who struck me as grounded and kind, rather than bitter and vindictive. After dinner, with her kids underfoot and Frankie spot-welded to the sofa -- he was already tired of all the Lance/doping talk, and this was six years ago -- she hauled a large cardboard box to the middle of the den. In it were news clippings, depositions, files, handwritten notes and correspondence she'd collected since the mid-'1990s (including the hotel receipt from their Indiana visit in '96).
Working at nights, between carpooling to hockey and Little League, on days she was not volunteering at the Catholic school her kids attend, she had become an aggregator and clearinghouse for journalists and even investigators. She was interviewed on multiple occasions by Jeff Novitsky, then of the FDA, and USADA director Travis Tygart.
What motivated her? She e-mailed and phoned reporters, sending links to stories, suggesting angles, gently (and sometimes not so gently) correcting those who wrote that Armstrong had never tested positive. She gave interviews, appeared on
"I didn't decide to take Lance on," recalls Betsy. "I decided not to lie for him; there's a difference."
One of Armstrong's biggest problems, it turned out, was that he'd picked a fight with a woman who was just as stubborn as he was; just as headstrong, no less relentless in the pursuit of her goal.
The difference, of course, being that only one of them was telling the truth.
Here is a transcript from a conversation I had with Andreu earlier this week:
I have a range of emotions. You think of the friend that you had, and how he screwed you; you think of how maybe he's sorry he screwed you so badly, but maybe he's not sorry enough. If Lance is going to be completely contrite and honest, than he's on the road to forgiveness the road to healing, I'm open to that possibility.
When Frankie rode the 2000 Tour de France, he rode it clean and was chided by [team director Johan Bruyneel] for not being strong enough.
In December 2003, I called Becky Livingston, looking for a number for Lisa Shiels. [Becky Livingston was the wife of then U.S. Postal rider Kevin Livingston. Shiels was an ex-girlfriend of Armstrong's who had been in the hospital room in 1996.]
But Becky told Kevin I was looking for the number, and Kevin went and tattled to Lance, who got
Before the 2004 Tour Bill Stapleton asked Frankie if I would sign a statement of support for Lance, claiming that the hospital room incident hadn't happened. They wanted me to smear David Walsh. I said "I'm not gonna do it." It was back and forth, back and forth -- they were frikkin' persistent. I finally told Frankie to give them this message: "Kiss my ass, it ain't happening."
Jim Ochowicz is godfather to L.A.'s first-born child; he was president of USA Cycling's Board of directors. I remember that right after Frankie came forward [Frankie Andreu admitted to
A few days before, I told Frankie, "All you do is complain about these stupid board meetings, how you fall asleep on the phone. Why don't you just leave them?" Then when Ochowicz called called to ask him to resign I said, "Let him go to hell, you stay on that board."
I've been told, "Calm down, it's baby steps." The truth will come out
What pisses me off is the time it took to defend my freaking honor. A TV crew came over here yesterday, unannounced, the phone calls are never ending. What does it say to my kids? I told the truth before but it didn't matter. But now this person has decided to tell the truth after lying for over a decade, and he should be congratulated and praised? Are you kidding me? Shouldn't we always be telling the truth?