Ex-teammate: I saw Lance Armstrong inject EPO
"In my lunch bag I got EPO. You know, other guys got other things such as growth hormone. I mean, it's sad to say it, I was kinda willing and accepting of the lunch bag, but you know, in a way it was also an honor that, 'Wow, like, they think I'm good enough to be with the 'A' team guys,'" Armstrong said.
It was 1997 - Hamilton says he had never doped before, but now a team doctor said that he could make the Tour de France team if he used EPO.
"He recommended and thought it was a good idea for both the team, for myself, and for my health that I take some therapy as he called it. And that was, so he was...recommending that I take EPO," Hamilton told Pelley.
When asked what he thought in that moment, Hamilton told Pelley, "Yeah it was a pretty emotional moment. I told him that I needed a little bit of time to think about it, and basically I was starting to see a little bit of the dirty side of the sport. It was tough. I felt like at this point in my career I was so close to the goal, I've gotta do it. You know, like, what would you do? You're that close, you've worked so hard to get to that moment. I mean, really you can say my whole life to get to that point."
"You were concerned in that moment that if you didn't do the EPO you wouldn't make the A team, you wouldn't ride the Tour [de France], is that right?" Pelley asked.
"Yeah," Hamilton said. "I kinda felt like I owed it to myself to look the other way and keep going forward."
"There was a time there where it felt like everybody was taking EPO," Frankie Andreu, who joined the U.S. Postal Service team the following year, told Pelley.
Andreu is another witness in the federal investigation. "Things were just getting faster and faster and sprinters were getting over the big mountains and winning, you know, climbing stages. There's 200 guys flying over these mountains and you can't even stay in the group. And it's just impossible to keep up. And it's like, 'What the hell's going on here?' That was kind of the mindset," Andreu told Pelley.
"If a rider was using EPO and the other riders in the race were not, the EPO is a race winner?" Pelley asked.
"Oh yeah, for sure, yeah," Andreu said. "If you weren't taking EPO you weren't going to win."
Andreu admitted to investigators that he turned to EPO for a brief time. "I got tired of getting dropped and trying to survive and having guys that normally never should have been riding in front of me kicking my butt. It was a matter of survival, just keeping up, not getting dropped, having my place in the peloton. Training alone wasn't doing it. And I think that's how many of the other riders during that era felt, I mean you kind of didn't have a choice," he said.
Hamilton told us that learning how to use EPO without getting caught was part of the U.S. Postal Service team's training. Some of the team doctors did frequent blood tests to make sure that riders were taking enough EPO to get a boost in red blood cells, but not so much that it would raise suspicion. They were testing something called hematocrit, the proportion of red cells in the blood.
Hamilton remembered that once during training the doctor told him that his hematocrit was too low.
"So they told me basically to take care of it," he remembered.
Asked what that meant, Hamilton said, "Taking some EPO. Either resting a lot, which if you rest a lot your hematocrit will go up. Or, that was a critical part of the year for training, putting in a lot of miles, so I really didn't have that option."
He says he needed the banned EPO and he knew who to call. "You know, I reached out to Lance Armstrong. And he helped me out. And, you know, I think the next day or two a package, FedEx or DHL package arrives with not a lot but just a little bit of EPO just to bump my values up a couple points," Hamilton said.
"And that package was sent by whom?" Pelley asked.
"I don't remember whose name was on the package, but you know, Lance confirmed that he'd sent me some. And it did arrive," Hamilton said.
"It was arranged by Lance Armstrong," Pelley asked.
"Correct," Hamilton said. "But, you know, I reached out to him, I asked for this. He - sure, it was an illegal doping product - but he helped out a friend, so I want to make it clear that, you know, if the roles were reversed and I had the connection I would have done the same thing for Lance."
"What was that conversation like when you made this request?" Pelley asked.
"Back in the day we had code - code words for certain things and we had, you know most riders had secret, had a second phone that was kind of secret, they didn't really share with anybody, so secret phones, secret code words. I asked him for some it was either Poe or Edgar Allen Poe, which was kinda, that was the code name for EPO," Hamilton said.
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