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Tour DeFense: Armstrong Hits Media Circuit


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

There is a whole new round in the debate over seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Whether he did or didn't use performance-enhancing drugs. Over the weekend, several media organizations, including NPR, reported that two witnesses in sworn testimony said that in 1996, Armstrong admitted he had used banned substances. Armstrong strongly denies making such a statement. Today one of the people who said he witnessed Armstrong's alleged admission spoke publicly about the matter.

NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN reporting:

It seemed as if Lance Armstrong was everywhere on TV yesterday. Good Morning America and The View on ABC, the Daily Show on Comedy Central. According to Armstrong's lawyer, the appearances were because of long standing commitments to the programs. But Armstrong took the opportunity to refute the story about his alleged admission of doping.

According to sworn testimony in a recent legal case involving Armstrong, he told a doctor in 1996 that he has used in the past a variety of banned performance-enhancing substances. Two witnesses said Armstrong said this in an Indiana hospital where he was being treated for testicular cancer. Armstrong and another sworn witness say it didn't happen. Last night on ESPN's Outside the Lines, Armstrong cited in his defense his primary oncologist at the time, Dr. Craig Nichols.

Mr. LANCE ARMSTRONG (Champion bicyclist): Dr. Nichols, one of the premier specialists in the world, with regard to this gave a sworn affidavit that said if a patient ever said that to him, it would be incredibly pertinent to a case with a cancer survivor. It would have to go in the records. There's 280 pages of medical records. Never once mentioned.

GOLDMAN: Armstrong also took issue with Betsy Andreu, wife of a former cycling teammate of Armstrong's. She said under oath that she heard the admission.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: On cross examination, Ms. Andreu was asked whether or not, you know, the doctors were male or female, couldn't remember. Were they were wearing lab coats? Couldn't remember. Did they have clipboards? Couldn't remember. Do you think that in a hospital room three days after brain surgery, weeks and weeks and weeks into the process, in a room full of people, one of them including my mom, I'm going to sit down and talk about this?

GOLDMAN: Today, Betsy Andreu stood by her story and for the first time, her husband Frankie talked publicly about also witnessing the incident. Formerly a close friend of Armstrong's and a cycling teammate for a decade, Frankie Andreu was in the hospital room that day in October 1996. But he's been reluctant to talk other than confirming that his sworn testimony in the legal case was truthful and accurate. Today in an interview with NPR, Frankie Andreu broke his silence.

Mr. FRANKIE ANDREU (Champion bicyclist): Well, Lance has been kind of attacking my wife, saying that she doesn't remember what happened in the hospital room. And in her deposition, in her testimony, it stated quite clearly that there was two doctors, both were male. They had lab coats. One had a note pad. Lance stated that his mom was in the room, which is mistaken. His mom was not in the room.

GOLDMAN: This incident allegedly happened in 1996 and now, you know, the public is hearing about this 10 years later. And one of the questions I received, I think from a listener, was if it was so important, if it's such a significant thing, why didn't Betsy and/or Frankie come out earlier?

Mr. ANDREU: Lance was on his deathbed, 50 percent chance of survival. And you know we were friends of his and there to support him. And when he was speaking to the doctor, he was fighting for his life. The guy was going to do anything he could to be able to save his life and I respected that and I wanted to see him live and move on. And so it wasn't something that we brought up then, and after a few years, it just kind of went away and we actually forgot about it.

GOLDMAN: Until, he says, the legal case in 2004 involving a company that was withholding a bonus payment to Armstrong. Andreu says it was something he didn't want to be part of, but he was subpoenaed. Frankie Andreu says he has nothing to gain speaking publicly and says his comments could definitely hurt him financially. Although retired from competitive cycling, he says he still makes his living through the sport.

Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.