Symbol of cycling’s lead years, Lance Armstrong, who on Thursday agreed to pay $ 5 million to settle his federal fraud case in the United States, used all existing doping products to elevate his empire, a sham discovered years later.
. Substances in ‘stock’
EPO, blood transfusions, growth hormones, testosterone, corticosteroids: the list of substances used by the Texan to ensure his success in the peloton caused the anti-doping agency of his country (USADA), at the origin of his fall in 2012, to him accused of using “the most sophisticated doping system in history, the most effective and professional that sport has ever known.”
At the time when it was all-powerful, the US Postal team, led by Johan Bruyneel, its director and protector since 1999, Armstrong imposed the image of the blue train (the color of his jerseys) for seven years – seven Tour victories. .
The ascents were a sight never seen before. Armstrong was carried away by his teammates before he eliminated his opponents with an unprecedented blow, a kind of ‘sprint’ in the middle of the mountain.
. Next to the powers
Behind the scenes, the authority of the ‘Boss’ was the same. It was about face to face with the then president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), the Dutch Hein Verbruggen, who died in 2017. Faced with the suspicions that began to surface after his victory in 1999, Armstrong denies everything, and even dares to counterattack and challenge the accuser.
He assures that his only relationship with the controversial Italian doctor Michele Ferrari is his training programs. It even pays for the purchase of anti-doping equipment for the youth of the international federation.
Over time it is discovered that he will even report some of his rivals for doping to the UCI, the Spanish Iban Mayo, for example.
Was he protected? In the report published in 2015, the independent cycling reform commission (CIRC), which investigates the doping practices of the peloton since 1998 and the management of the problem by the UCI, does not discover corruption, but does highlight the closeness between Armstrong and Verbruggen .
The president of the UCI, then a strong man of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), does not hesitate to come out to defend Armstrong, the man who brought cycling back to the front page and spread it across the United States.
. The motor hypothesis
How to explain the insulting superiority of Armstrong against rivals who most are suspected of having used the same doping products? At the beginning of 2017, the American television CBS investigated the use of motors in the bicycles of the peloton and installed the doubt about the Texan. A book that appeared in France at the end of the same year (‘Rolling faster than death’, by Philippe Brunel) insists on the hypothesis.
The Hungarian engineer Istvan Varjas, at the origin of the discovery of the miniature engine, explains that his ‘absolute weapon’ was ready at the end of 1998. He claims that then an intermediary bought the invention with a ‘no competition’ clause for 10 years, a kind of exclusive contract.
In 2016 Armstrong was asked on Irish radio about the use of a motorized bicycle on the Tour “But you are crazy!”, He replied. Through lawyers he defended that he had never used a system of these characteristics. But he did not clear up the doubts about his contemporaries, which would be bizarre.