Cocktails of olive oil and testosterone, blood stored in secret cupboards and a shadowy courier known as ‘Motoman’ have delivered the fatal blows to the doping-shattered reputation of Lance Armstrong.
In the 202 pages of damning evidence compiled by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) which it claims proved the existence of the biggest doping conspiracy in sports history, the use of EPO, testosterone, cortisone and transfusions were common occurences which powered the American to seven Tour de France titles.
It was as far back as the 1999 Tour de France that the man known as ‘Motoman’, Armstrong’s gardener, came into the orbit of Armstrong’s US Postal team.
“His (Motoman) qualities were to be tested because he was also to play the role of drug trafficker,” said the USADA report.
“His role was to follow the Tour on his motorcycle and deliver EPO to “Pepe” (Pepe Marti), officially the trainer but also known by the riders as “the courier”.
The EPO was delivered in syringes directly to the riders with the team going to elaborate lengths to destroy the evidence.
“The syringes were dropped into cans of coca-cola, and the doctor then threw them out of the bus as quickly as possible,” claimed Tyler Hamilton, a former teammate of Armstrong.
During the 1999 Tour and the following years, Armstrong and his teammates would mix testosterone with olive oil.
It was called “the oil”, a codeword elaborated upon by Armstrong who described it as “liquid gold” when he talked about it to Betsy Andreu, the wife of another rider Frankie Andreu, in Nice in 1999.
It was only from 2001, claimed Hamilton, that testosterone was taken in the form of a patch.
When it came to self-administered blood transfusions, Armstrong, according to USADA, was again the driving force.
In 2003, fellow American Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for doping, said that he and Armstrong even stored blood for future transfusions.
This process was allegedly steered by doping-linked doctor Michele Ferrari and involved the storage of blood in a fridge in a giant, hidden cupboard in Armstrong’s bedroom.
Days later, Landis was asked by Armstrong to keep a watchful eye on his apartment for a few days while he was away so that the stocks of blood would not be discovered.
“Landis agreed to become a blood baby-sitter,” said USADA.
Then, in 2003, just before the Tour de France, Armstrong was using the Spanish home of George Hincapie, yet another teammate, to carry out a self-administered transfusion.
“Armstrong could not do it at his own home because he had friends on the way,” claimed Hincapie.
“When we finished reinjecting the blood we would hang the bags on a hanger on the wall.”
On the 2004 Tour de France, transfusions were carried out on the team bus on the evening of a stage before the riders returned to their hotel.
Landis recalled that one transfusion session even took place on a mountain road on the bus — the team pretended that the vehicle had broken down.
USADA also claimed that Armstrong and his fellow conspirators specialised in methods and products which were harder to detect — taking testosterone through a patch, for example, and using EPO intravenously.
To lower the hematocrit level following a transfusion, riders would inject a saline solution. That would take effect in just 20 minutes.
The USADA claimed that Armstrong used this method at the 1998 world championships to circumvent International Cycling Union (UCI) controls.
Sometimes the only way to avoid detection was to act quickly.
During the Festina scandal on the 1998 Tour de France when fear gripped the peloton, Emma O’Reilly, a former masseuse of Armstrong, recalled that tens of thousands of dollars worth of products were simply flushed down the toilets on the team bus.