Le Monde reports details of lawsuit testimony

Updated: June 24, 2006, 7:41 AM ET
Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas -- Lance Armstrong angrily denied the latest allegation that he used performance-enhancing drugs, dismissing the claims of a former teammate's wife that he admitted it a few days after brain surgery in 1996.

In a two-page denial released Friday, the seven-time Tour de France champion called the allegations reported in Le Monde, France's most prestigious newspaper, "stale, unfounded and untrue."

The newspaper reported Friday it received a copy of Betsy Andreu's sworn statements before an arbitration panel in January. She claimed Armstrong told a doctor he had used the blood-boosting hormone EPO and other drugs.

At the time, Armstrong was in the hospital recovering from surgery to remove testicular cancer had spread to his brain.

Andreu's husband, Frankie Andreu, rode with Armstrong on his winning Tours in 1999 and 2000 before leaving Armstrong's team.

Armstrong won the Tour de France from 1999-2005 and retired last year.

Betsy Andreu's testimony came in a legal dispute over whether Armstrong was owed a $5 million bonus for winning in 2004. The company under contract to pay had withheld the cash under allegations Armstrong cheated.

The case was moved to binding arbitration. After three weeks of testimony, the three-member panel ruled against the company and awarded Armstrong $7.5 million.

"It's over. We won. They lost," Armstrong said. "I was yet again completely vindicated."

A telephone message for Betsy Andreu at their home in Michigan was not immediately returned.

Le Monde reported that Frankie Andreu gave sworn testimony in October with the same allegations as his wife.

Andreu is a commentator for the Outdoor Life Network and team director for the Toyota-United Pro Cycling team. A team spokeswoman said Andreu stands by his deposition.

According to Le Monde, Betsy Andreu said Armstrong's alleged admission came Oct. 28, 1996, three days after his brain surgery.

She said she was in Armstrong's hospital room when the doctor asked if he had ever taken doping products. She said Armstrong replied "yes."

"He asks which ones. And Lance replies, 'EPO, growth hormones, cortisone, steroids, testosterone,' " Andreu was quoted as saying.

To refute her claim, Armstrong's attorney, Tim Herman, released to The Associated Press a sworn statement from Dr. Craig Nichols, who administered Armstrong's chemotherapy at Indiana University Medical Center. Nichols now is chairman of hematology-oncology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

In a statement submitted during arbitration, Nichols said that in multiple doctor-patient interviews, Armstrong never admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Nichols said he began Armstrong's chemotherapy that same day as the alleged admission. He said he and other medical personnel had talked with Armstrong about his medical history.

"Lance Armstrong never admitted, suggested or indicated that he has ever taken performance-enhancing drugs. Had this been disclosed to me, I would have recorded it, or been aware of it, as a pertinent aspect of Lance Armstrong's past medical history as I always do," Nichols said.

"Had I been present at any such 'confession,' I would most certainly have vividly recalled the fact," Nichols said. "I would have recorded such a confession as a matter of form, as indeed, would have my colleagues. None was recorded."

In cross examination transcripts released by Armstrong's lawyer, Betsy Andreu could not identify the doctor she said Armstrong spoke to, but said it was not Nichols or either of Armstrong's other primary physicians.

Nichols' affidavit said it was unlikely he would not have been at the meeting she described.

"Though I was not Lance Armstrong's sole physician, I was responsible for the majority of his treatment and would have been present at every large meeting where discussions took place or decisions were made," Nichols said.

Nichols was traveling Friday and not immediately available for comment, his office said.

The newspaper reported the Andreus' account was denied by a third person, Stephanie McIlvain, a friend of Armstrong's who was also at the session with the doctor.

She testified that she did not hear Armstrong make such an admission.

"There were probably 10 people in the room. Betsy was apparently the only one that recalls this alleged incident," said Herman, Armstrong's attorney.

Armstrong's statement said part of his cancer treatments included steroids and EPO.

Armstrong's doctors repeatedly asked him during his treatment about substances he may have taken and Armstrong answered only that he occasionally drank beer, Herman said.

All witness testimony in the arbitration case was supposed to be kept confidential. Armstrong said his legal team is trying to find out who leaked documents to the newspaper and is considering legal action.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE