Cycling: Pedaling a lie?
|The sport of cycling is facing up to the biggest crisis in its history. Lance Armstrong is no longer a serial winner, but a serial cheat.
Pivotal to the story is an Italian doctor, Michele Ferrari, who is accused of doping Armstrong and his Tour de France team mates.
Ferrari was named 480 times in the US Anti-Doping Agency's (USADA) devastating report on the Armstrong case earlier this year, and was handed a lifetime ban by the agency. He is also the subject of an ongoing doping investigation in his native Italy.
Al Jazeera talks exclusively to the doctor who denies doping Armstrong.
“I’ve never seen any doping practice from Lance Armstrong. I can say I've never seen, I never heard something about that. And he never asked me [for] information about doping …. Since I started with cyclists 30 years ago I had consulting with hundreds of professional cyclists. Over 30 years only a few athletes accused me of something illegal or something related with doping and all these few guys had a reason to do that,” Dr Michele Ferrari says.
The USADA report contains plenty of damning eye-witness statements about Armstrong and Ferrari. There is testimony from 11 of Armstrong’s former US Postal Service (USPS) team mates about his doping and the report reaches several damning conclusions about Ferrari.
“Dr Ferrari was brought to several USPS training camps …. Dr Ferrari developed a distinctive mixture of testosterone and olive oil to be administered under the tongue to assist in recovery during races and training. This mixture was known among team members as the “oil”.
“Dr Ferrari also advised riders on the use of the banned oxygen enhancer erythropoietin (EPO) with detailed instructions regarding clearance times, how the EPO drug test worked and how to avoid detection of the drug ….”
Al Jazeera also meets a man with a rather different take on Lance Armstrong – his former US Postal team mate Tyler Hamilton. Hamilton was one of the riders who testified against Armstrong and against Dr Ferrari as part of the USADA report.
Hamilton says drugs were an accepted part of cycling throughout his career and that he blood-doped alongside Armstrong.
He told Al Jazeera that Armstrong privately admitted to actually failing a drug test – but says that result was never likely to go public.
We look at reactions to Dr Ferrari’s claims of innocence and conspiracy, and ask how much damage the Armstrong scandal has done to the sport. Can the sport really change its culture and restore its shattered image?