Bruce Hildenbrand “Diehard Cycling Fans May Say ‘He (Armstrong) Desecrated the Tour de France By Cheating To Win.’ ”

January 20, 2011 – 9:30 am by Steven Cuce

Once again negative press continues to dominate the sport of cycling as Sports Illustrated revealed new information in a case pertaining to Lance Armstrong and an organized doping operation. The seven-time Tour de France winner is the central focus of a federal jury inquiry in Los Angeles, California. Jeff Novitzky of the FDA is out for Armstrong this time.

The highlights of the investigation include Armstrong being involved in a possible doping operation as a member of a team sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service from 1999 to 2004. Sports Illustrated is claiming from a source with knowledge of the government investigation on Armstrong that he used HemAssist, which increases the amount of oxygen you can carry into the blood. Former USPS rider, Floyd Landis, came out and said the perk to traveling with Armstrong privately was that their bags of drugs would rarely be searched like they were in St. Moritz. Customs officials wanted to look into their suitcases and were told the substances were “vitamins.” Anti-doping expert, Don Catlin, claims that in 1999 Armstrong was one of the three unknown USA cyclists that had highly abnormal testosterone-epitestosterone levels. The list goes on-and-on. I strongly suggest to get the culmination on what has gone on with Lance Armstrong and his anti-doping allegations over the last 15 years by checking out the Sports Illustrated article.

The most difficult part in all of this is that Lance Armstrong was such a compelling story winning the Tour de France seven consecutive times after beating testicular cancer, thus starting the LIVESTRONG organization. At this point, cycling can’t find one Tour de France winner who has come up clean with 14 of the last 15 winners of the Tour de France having potentially been involved in drug related offenses if Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong are found guilty.

Cycling Magazine’s Bruce Hildenbrand joined KNBR in San Francisco with Razor and Mr.T to discuss if he believes Lance Armstrong is dirty in regards to using steroids or doping, was it ever believable that Armstrong dominated a “dirty” sport, what is the run down of the Sports Illustrated article on Armstrong, what is HemAssist and how do cyclers use it, how much of a pass will Armstrong get if he admits to using EPO because of the LIVESTRONG organization and does he ever see Armstrong admitting he used EPO if he is guilty.

You believe Lance Armstrong was dirty in regards to using steroids and doping?

“Well I mean I think what’s happening now is enough people have spoken out that have first hand knowledge of what was going on Lance’s team, when he was winning the Tour de France, when he was competing as a professional, that you have to call those peoples credibility into consideration. Why are they doing that? If they got the credibility…I think they do. I think there’s a pretty good chance that something not right was going on with that team and those riders at that time.”

Was it ever believable that a guy in Lance Armstrong could dominate a “dirty” sport in cycling where everyone was enhancing or using steroids?

“That’s really the difficult thing and you know the guy who won the Tour de France last year, Alberto Contador, is now involved in a real sticky affair. If Contador goes down and Lances goes down that’s 14 of the last 15 winners of the Tour de France will have been involved in drug related offenses.”

What is the rundown of this Sports Illustrated article on Lance Armstrong?

“For the person who’s really not up on the Lance doping history this is a pretty good piece of what has gone on in the last 15 years or so. Not much new stuff there from that perspective. I’m guessing that, Jeff Novitzky, the federal prosecutor who’s trying to investigate the case (Interrupted by hosts)…We will see. The rumor is that indictments will come out in this thing after the Super Bowl. Sometime in February will start seeing indictments from his investigation and then the question is “Who’s going to be indicted?” Will it be Lance? Will it be the people that worked with Lance? Will it be people who helped bankroll Lance’s team? So I think that’s the stuff we’re all kind of waiting to see. Unfortunately or fortunately however you believe our justice system should work, there haven’t been many leaks to what they’ve found out or what they’re going to do, so this article is really going backward from what you said, what we already know, putting it into a chronological history and trying to build.”

HemAssist? What is it exactly in regards to the Sports Illustrated article that claimed from a source with knowledge of the government’s investigation that Armstrong had used it?

“It’s a very, very, quick-acting, oxygen carrier in the blood. So say for example you’re in a trauma case and you’ve lost a whole bunch of blood and the person’s about to die, well you can’t get 3 liters of blood back into their body right away, but this particular chemical acts like 3 liters of blood. It transports enough oxygen as that much blood, so it can get the person from the car accident to the hospital, so they can really work on that person. The idea being it’s just a very kind of last minute you know we’ve got this person’s blood oxygenated, so they won’t die kind of thing.”

How do cyclists use HemAssist?

“Cyclist would use it as a blood boosting agent…umm…oxygen carrying agent. Cycling is very unique in the sense that it’s really totally an endurance sport. There’s not much hand-eye coordination. I mean yeah you gotta down at 60 mph and not crash, but for the most part you could really do cycling on a treadmill and see who could go as fast as possible. It’s just all about endurance and that’s how much oxygen you can get to your muscles because of that thing like EPO, which boost the number of red blood cells in your body and something like HemAssist, which increases the amount of oxygen you can carry in your blood are super powerful and super effective to making you a better endurance athlete. So when you start a climb up the Pyrenees you can go faster because your muscles can work harder and you can learn to leave all your buddies behind you and win the Tour de France.

How much of a pass will Armstrong get if he admitted his use of EPO? How will Armstrong be viewed? Armstrong has started the LIVESTRONG organization will that cut him some slack?

“I think that’s a very interesting question because Lance…The way I look at it there are two kinds of bike racing fans and this is not to say one is better than the other. There’s the die-hard fans like you guys are basketball fans and baseball fans because you grew up with the sport and you went to the games and you played the game and all that kind of stuff. We have those kinds of fans in cycling, but also because of Lance’s story. How compelling the survival of  cancer was. A lot of people who didn’t have that kind of background became interested in cycling. So I think what’s going to happen here is the people that really like that cancer story, the survival from cancer, I think their willing to cut Lance a bigger path than the true diehard cycling fans. The true diehard cycling fans may say “He desecrated the Tour de France by cheating to win.” You know I don’t think the fact that he won 7 Tour de France’s makes his cancer story you know that much more compelling. He came back from cancer. It’s great that he was able to come back to a higher level, but he still is a cancer survivor and he’s put it on the map. The people that are drawn to cycling and the people because of the cancer story will probably cut him a lot more slack.”

Do you ever see Lance Armstrong coming out and admitting he did EPO if he is guilty?

“Until he feels that the LIVESTRONG organization will be able to maintain an even keel I think it would be hard for him to say. If he was convinced if somehow for example one of the team directors this year said “Look anybody involved in a doping situation in the last few years come clean to me and it will not effect your employment. You still got a job.” If somehow Lance was convinced that his foundation would go on as it had before if he came clean, I think he would do it if he is indeed guilty. Again I just think the foundation is such a big part of what he’s about that he’s in a very protective mode about making sure that is still a viable entity.”

Listen to Bruce Hildenbrand on KNBR here

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