Cycling

Lance accused of intimidation

2012-10-14 17:54
Lance Armstrong (AFP)

London - Lance Armstrong has been accused of using intimidation and threats in a desperate bid to stop a whistleblower going public with claims about his alleged drug use.

Armstrong, who maintains his innocence, has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and banned from the sport for life after the organisation claimed he orchestrated the most sophisticated doping programme ever seen.

But Betsy Andreu, the wife of Armstrong's former team-mate Frankie Andreu, claims to have known the American was doping for 16 years and has had to deal with his attempts to silence her ever since.

"Lance waged a war against me and I fought back quietly and smartly," Andreu told the Mail on Sunday.

"Every time he said something untrue about me, it just empowered me more. The more he called me a liar, the more I was going to fight. No way was I going to let somebody lie about me."

Betsy became friendly with Armstrong thanks to Frankie, who cycled on the same Motorola and US Postal Service teams with Armstrong at various times between 1992 and 2000.

Together with then fiance Frankie, she visited Armstrong as he received treatment for testicular cancer in 1996 and the American had a conversation with two doctors while Betsy was in the room.

According to Betsy, Armstrong admitted then that he had been taking EPO, testosterone, growth hormone, cortisone and steroids to improve his cycling.

David Walsh, a journalist, became aware of that incident via an off the record statement from Betsy in 2003, but Armstrong quickly got word that she had revealed his secret.

He responded by starting an intimidation campaign that lasted years.

First he sent Frankie, who had also briefly used EPO at Armstrong's urging, an e-mail that read: "Helping to bring me down is not going to help y'alls situation. There is a direct link to all our success here, may I suggest you remind her of that."

When Betsy refused to sign a statement in support of Armstrong and discrediting Walsh, the American began a media smear campaign against Andreu.

Armstrong's former physical therapist Emma O'Reilly was another who tried to expose the cyclist and was labelled a "prostitute" and an "alcoholic" by the American.

As rumours of drug use continued to swirl around Armstrong in 2008, Betsy was left a sinister voicemail from a friend and former business associate of Armstrong.

"I hope somebody breaks a baseball bat over your head,' it said. "I also hope that one day you have adversity in your life and you have some type of tragedy that will definitely make an impact on you."

Andreu said: "The real Lance Armstrong is a bullshitter. He's the chameleon. He will be what he wants you to see.

"If he wants you to be intimidated, he'll be the bully; if he wants you to believe his lie, he'll charm the hell out of you.

"He was nice to me at first. But then I wouldn't stay quiet, and that was a problem. We knew Lance was a bully and the more money and power he got, the worse it became. He insulated himself and surrounded himself with "yes" people.

"When Frankie and I spoke up, he rounded on us quickly. It was stunning - not that he did it, but that it was to one of his closest friends. I thought, "Oh my gosh, who's going to be next?"

Read more on:    lance armstrong  |  cycling
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