The former boss of French Anti-Doping has accused Lance Armstrong of motor-doping during his career, saying that the Texan’s admittance of using EPO can’t solely explain his performances.
“Lance Armstrong, this is the best scam. With complicity at all levels. He got special treatment. Many told me that I should not tackle legends, that I was going to find myself alone. But if the legends are mounted on anything…I also believe that he had a motor in the bike,” Jean-Pierre Verdy told French television programme Stade 2 during an interview.
Motor doping, or mechanical doping, is a method of cheating by using a hidden motor inside the bike to add power, this ‘technological fraud’ is banned by the UCI.
“I still have the images in my head of a mountain stage where everyone is collecting themselves and he leaves everyone on the ground. At the end of the stage, I call all the specialists I know, and they don’t understand how this performance is possible, even with EPO. There was something wrong, and all the specialists were telling me the same thing…it was not the EPO that made the difference.”
In January 2018, former pro Thomas Voeckler told Le Parisien that he wouldn’t be shocked if it turned out that Lance Armstrong had motor-doped.
Lance Armstrong has previously commented on allegations of motor-doping, saying during an interview on Irish radio that he was never offered a motorised bike.
“Absolutely not,” he said when asked if doping doctor Michele Ferrari ever offered him a motorised bike. If he would ever have considered using one, Armstrong said, “of course not.”
The host, Ger Gilroy, then asked him what the difference was between using a motorised bike and EPO, which Armstrong confessed to using during his career.
“Ger, are you a complete rookie? In 1999, no one even knew you could put a motor [in a bike]. Are you out of your mind?” Armstrong said.
“I know that it’s topical. I know there has been a rider caught with a motor in her bike. But, are you crazy?”
Verdy was the founder and director of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) between 2006 and 2015, and says his vigour for the fight for clean sport stems from one of the first cases the agency dealt with, the death of a 20-year-old cyclist who had been doping. “Did Armstrong use it? With him, I’d no longer be shocked by anything,” the Frenchman said.
The Frenchman has a book out, titled ‘Doping: my war against cheaters’, and says that while there is an omerta present in football, and that cycling isn’t the only sport affected by doping, it is cycling that is at the forefront of new doping products.
“Doping does not affect all athletes, only a minority,” Verdy explained. “Cycling remains quite emblematic. Historically, cyclists are the ones who slow down the fight against doping the most, and who are on the front line to find the new drugs that have just been released.
“It calmed down anyway because I had programmed controls on all levels of competitions, trying to remain unpredictable to carry danger everywhere. I made the peloton bitch by ordering operations with a lot of controls. In some events, not just in cycling, I had to ask the doping testers to come forward at the last moment before the start. As soon as the rumor circulated that there was a control, athletes gave up. It is not usual to give up after two kilometres.”
Verdy says he wrote the book because the burden had become a lot to bear, and his doctor kept increasing his blood pressure medication, and that a number of pages containing names had to be removed for legal reasons.
“It frees me and at the same time I hope that it will move the dial, cause some reaction, that the brakes will be removed so that the fight against doping has more weight,” Verdy said. “I took three years to write this book, and it was thicker. On the advice of my editor I had to reformulate some passages and remove names, to avoid legal proceedings. I still have some under my elbow.”
Lance Armstrong has been contacted for comment