Lance's teammates admit doping

2006-09-12 07:54

New York - Two of Lance Armstrong's teammates in the 1999 Tour de France admitted taking the banned performance-enhancing substance EPO in preparing for that race, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

In a story posted on its website, the newspaper said Frankie Andreu, a retired captain of the US Postal Service team, and another rider who did not want his name disclosed both admitted wrongdoing in interviews with the Times.

The admissions darken Armstrong's first Tour de France triumph and come in the wake of Armstrong fighting off claims that an updated test of a 1999 sample applied by a French laboratory showed the US cycling star was positive.

Armstrong, who turns 35 next week, began a run of seven Tour triumphs in a row in 1999 before retiring last year. American Floyd Landis won last July's Tour but tested positive and is fighting to clear his name.

Armstrong and Landis have denied taking any performance-enhancing substances.

Andreu, 39, said he took EPO for only a few races and said his admission of being a dope cheat is because he thinks doping is hurting cycling, saying that doping and denial by riders could turn off fans and sponsors permanently.

"There are two levels of guys - you got the guys that cheat and guys that are just trying to survive," Andreu told the Times.

Both Andreu and his unidentified teammate told the newspaper they never saw Armstrong take any banned substance.

Neither man ever failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs, they told the Times, casting doubt upon whether any negative test from 1999 could be considered proof that any rider was not a dope cheat.

Both riders who spoke to the Times said they felt they had to take EPO simply to make the team in 1999. Andreu would not say exactly when he took EPO while the other rider said he did not use EPO during the actual Tour de France.