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SI Drops The Hammer On Lance Armstrong

Sports Illustrated has new details on the case against Lance Armstrong in this week’s issue.

Below are excerpts from Selena Roberts and David Epstein‘s article, which claims Armstrong had three tests with unusually high testosterone-epitestosterone levels.

ARMSTRONG TIED TO THREE TESTS INDICATING UNUSUALLY HIGH TESTOSTERONE – EPISTOSTERONE LEVELS

According to Dr. Donald Catlin’s estimate, his lab at UCLA performed more than two dozen tests of Armstrong between 1990 and 2000. In May 1999, USA Cycling sent a formal request to Catlin for past test results – specifically, testosterone-epitestosterone (T:E) ratios – for a cyclist identified by a source with knowledge of the request as Lance Armstrong. Three results indicated high T:E ratios, specifically: a 9.0-to-1 ratio from a sample collected on June 23, 1993; a 7.6-to-1 from July 7, 1994; and a 6.5-to-1 from June 4, 1996.

Roberts and Epstein report: “Most people have a ratio of 1-to-1. Prior to 2005, any ratio above 6.0-to-1 was considered abnormally high and evidence of doping; in 2005 that ratio was lowered to 4.0-to-1. But the high ratios had not led to sanctions. In his letter Catlin did not address the 6.5-to-1 result, but he wrote that he had attempted confirmation (a required step) on the 9.0-to-1 and 7.6-to-1 samples, and ‘in both cases the confirmation was unsuccessful and the samples were reported negative.’ ”

Armstrong has long maintained that he has never tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. According to Roberts and Epstein: “Since the A samples were not confirmed by positive follow-up samples, in this case he’s right.”

WAS USOC DRUG TESTING USED TO WARN ATHLETES INSTEAD OF SACTIONING THEM?

From Roberts and Epstein: “Catlin’s UCLA lab did all the testing for the U.S. Olympic Committee during the nine years that Wade Exum was the organization’s doping control director. Exum resigned in June 2000 in protest of what he said was the USOC’s practice of letting positive drug tests slide. In a subsequent lawsuit claiming that he had been the victim of wrongful termination and racial discrimination, Exum alleged that 19 U.S. Olympic medalists from 1984 to 2000 had been allowed to compete in the Games despite having failed drug tests. Exum’s allegations appear to be supported by minutes of USOC anti-doping committee meetings from 1999 and 2000, recently reviewed by SI. In the minutes, officials discuss how to informally test athletes for marijuana and performance-enhancing drugs – not to sanction them but to help them to avoid testing positive at the Olympics.”

Roberts and Epstein write: “In 2000, according to the minutes, a debate arose within the committee over whether to use Catlin’s testosterone testing method (CIR) before the Sydney Games. Baaron Pittenger, the committee chair, said, ‘We can handle CIR in the same way we’re handling marijuana in terms of notifying the athletes.’ In reply, Catlin said, ‘Just don’t connect the CIR result to the athlete. Do it as a research experience.’ (Catlin says he doesn’t recall that discussion and adds, ‘I was always fighting to expose the USOC and all its diddling around with everything.’)”

ARMSTRONG LINKED TO EXPERIMENTAL DRUG “HEMASSIST” – A DRUG SHOWN TO BOOST THE BLOOD’S OXYGEN-CARRYING CAPACITY

A source familiar with the grand jury says Armstrong gained access to a drug called HemAssist, manufactured by Baxter Healthcare Corp., during the late 1990s. Roberts and Epstein write: “According to public records, a study on a drug called Diaspirin Cross-Linked Hemoglobin (DCLHb) began in early 1997 and ended in 1998. Baxter developed the drug, whose tradename is HemAssist, for use in cases of extreme blood loss, such as by shock and trauma victims; in animal studies it was shown to boost the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity without the thickening caused by EPO.”

Dr. Robert Przybelski, who was the director of hemoglobin therapeutics at Baxter in the late ’90s, says: “If somebody was going to design something better than EPO, this would be the ideal product. [Hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers] do everything they want EPO to do without the potential side effects of increased blood viscosity and strokes. And it doesn’t last long [in the body], 12 to 24 hours, which is ideal for an event.”

Armstrong’s response: “Armstrong’s lawyers say that he denies ever having taken HemAssist, and they claim it was impossible for him to have had access to the drug after the clinical trials ended and Baxter abandoned development in September 1998.”

FORMER ARMSTRONG BICYCLE MECHANIC (AND ASSISTANT) MIKE ANDERSON CLAIMS THAT HE SAW A BOX LABELED “ANDRO” IN ARMSTRONG’S MEDICINE CABINET AND THAT HE PARTICIPATED IN A SCHEME TO DUPE USADA DURING AN ATTEMPT TO TEST ARMSTRONG

In addition to serving as Armstrong’s mechanic, Mike Anderson performed a number of household chores for Armstrong. In 2004, he says Armstrong asked him to remove all traces of Armstrong’s ex-wife, Kristin, from the biker’s apartment in Girona, Spain, It was then, Anderson says, that he came across a white box in the bathroom cabinet with andro written on it.

Roberts and Epstein write: “In papers filed in the spring of 2005, when Anderson sued Armstrong for allegedly reneging on a business deal to help him build a bike shop, Anderson’s lawyers would write the name of the substance as ‘Androstenin, or something very close to this.’ Anderson’s account in legal documents piqued the interest of the FDA. Six months ago, [investigator Jeff] Novitzky interviewed Anderson about his time working for Armstrong. Novitzky pronounced the word as An-droh-steen-die-own (Androstenedione), the steroid that became infamous when it was found in Mark McGwire’s locker. Androstenedione has been on the IOC list of banned substances since 1997.”

“Through his lawyer, Armstrong denies ever having taken andro.”

The documents from Anderson’s lawsuit also detail a random visit by USADA drug testers to Armstrong’s ranch in Texas: “Anderson says he became involved in a plan to fool the testers. His job was to keep an eye on the USADA officials – a man and a woman in a white SUV – while Armstrong’s friend John Korioth retrieved the cyclist’s black Suburban from the private terminal at the Austin airport and drove it to the ranch. The idea was for Korioth, posing as Armstrong behind the tinted windows of the car, to drive past the testers on the road and give the impression that Armstrong had been around all along and they simply could not get hold of him.”

Roberts and Epstein continue: “When contacted by SI, Korioth denied that the incident had occurred, saying, ‘It was proven through USADA that that didn’t happen. Mike Anderson fabricated that out of thin air.’ In response to Korioth’s assertion, Travis Tygart, USADA’s CEO, says, ‘USADA has never concluded that Mike Anderson fabricated the story.’ ”

“Armstrong’s legal counsel has described Anderson as ‘discredited.’ ”

ARMSTRONG’S TEAM LINKED TO CONTROVERSIAL ITALIAN PHYSICIAN MICHELE FERRARI AS RECENT AS 2009

By the mid-1990s, Armstrong had begun a relationship with Italian physician Michele Ferrari – one that Armstrong says he ended in 2004, when Ferrari was found guilty in an Italian court of “sports fraud.” Ferrari’s name resurfaced following a November raid of the Quarrata, Italy, home of Yaroslav Popvych, one of Armstrong’s Radio Shack teammates. Roberts and Epstein write: “Officials found drug-testing records, medical supplies and performance-enhancing drugs. They also found e-mails and texts that, they say, establish that as recently as 2009 Armstrong’s team had links to Ferrari.”

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