Lab chief told feds of suspicious Armstrong test

June 1, 2011 - 6:58 PM
Doping Armstrong Cycling

FILE - This Feb. 15, 2011, file photo shows Lance Armstrong during an interview in Austin, Tx. Attorneys for Armstrong have demanded an on-air apology from

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The director of the Swiss anti-doping laboratory informed federal authorities last fall that Lance Armstrong's test results from the 2001 Tour de Suisse were "suspicious" and "consistent with EPO use," The Associated Press has learned.

Martial Saugy made the statement in September, according to a person familiar with the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

The person also told the AP that Saugy confirmed to officials investigating doping in cycling that, after learning of the test results, he met with Armstrong and the manager of his U.S. Postal team, Johan Bruyneel, at the direction of the International Cycling Union.

Last week, Saugy told a Swiss newspaper that the lab found suspicious levels of EPO in four urine samples from the race Armstrong won, but he didn't know if any belonged to the seven-time Tour de France winner.

That was contrary to what he said in the statement, made to officials from the FBI, the Food and Drug Administration and anti-doping authorities, according to the person familiar with the investigation. Though Saugy was not under oath, there are potential legal ramifications for lying to authorities working on a federal probe.

David Howman, director general of the Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency, confirmed that Saugy had talked to him about suspicious results from the 2001 Tour de Suisse and an ensuing meeting set up by UCI that included people Saugy "didn't anticipate" would be there. When Saugy started mentioning details of the case, Howman said he helped set up a meeting between Saugy and American authorities.

Armstrong attorney Mark Fabiani criticized the reporting of the latest development, which came Wednesday afternoon, hours after a letter was sent to CBS' "60 Minutes" demanding an on-air apology for doping claims made against the cyclist in a segment that aired May 22. Armstrong's attorneys said the show ran with the 2001 accusations even though producers had been provided evidence the Armstrong camp says refutes allegations of a suspicious test.

"In an investigation characterized by unlawful leaks, it is amazing how quickly the leaker responded to today's '60 Minutes' letter, by reaching out to the AP in Los Angeles, and leaking some more," Fabiani said. "It is time for the press to stop giving comfort to this lawless form of character assassination and name names. Who is leaking this information? Whoever is doing so is committing a crime and should be investigated for it."

Federal officials are now in their second year of investigating doping in cycling. A Los Angeles-based grand jury is hearing evidence that could lead to charges of fraud, conspiracy and drug trafficking against Armstrong and his team.

Armstrong has denied doping, long invoking the fact that he has never tested positive.

A "suspicious" test "consistent with EPO use," is not a positive, though anti-doping authorities prefer to see the data from such a test.

The AP has learned that on three occasions, Saugy told authorities about the Armstrong tests and had agreed to turn over the results to anti-doping officials. But he never produced them, which prompted the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to send him a letter in April asking for the evidence.

The letter was obtained by "60 Minutes," which also aired an interview with Tyler Hamilton, a former Armstrong teammate, who said the champion cyclist had told him that he had tested positive at the 2001 Tour de Swiss, but that it wouldn't be a problem because "people took care of it."

The Hamilton interview reasserted allegations made a year earlier by Floyd Landis, another former teammate of Armstrong's.

The "60 Minutes" report referenced a sworn statement given by Saugy but did not reveal what, exactly, Saugy said.

CBS News chairman Jeff Fager said the network stood by its story, saying it learned Saugy had told U.S. officials and the FBI that there was a "suspicious" test result from the 2001 Tour de Suisse.

"This was confirmed by a number of international officials who have linked the 'suspicious' test to Armstrong," Fager said in his statement.

After the "60 Minutes" segment ran, Armstrong's camp launched a website that produced documents from the Swiss lab, which provided all of its positive tests from the race between 2001 and 2003. Armstrong's initials are not next to any of the positives.

However, missing in that batch are the results from Armstrong's 2001 tests — results that do, in fact, exist, according to the statement Saugy is said to have given federal authorities.

In his interview with the Swiss daily Neue Zurcher Zeitung last week, Saugy confirmed meeting with Armstrong and Bruyneel but not in connection with a suspicious test result.

That's counter to what Howman told the AP.

"It was a unique situation and in those circumstances, it's not appropriate for athletes or an athlete's entourage to be meeting with lab operators," Howman said. "Even if the meeting is as innocent as the day is long, the perception it gives to other athletes and members of the public is wrong, because the principle of anonymity is what we rely on with labs."

The UCI, in a statement issued shortly after the "60 Minutes" piece aired, said it "categorically rejects" Hamilton's allegations that it helped cover up a positive drug test by Armstrong.