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Ex-teammate: I saw Lance Armstrong inject EPO

Ex-Teammate: I saw Lance Armstrong doping 07:38

Lance Armstrong is among the greatest athletes of all time - an American hero who beat cancer to win the Tour de France, the Super Bowl of cycling, seven times. But now Armstrong is the focus of a federal investigation into performance enhancing drugs. A grand jury in Los Angeles has been hearing secret testimony from some of Armstrong's former teammates on the U.S. Postal Service team.

One of the prime witnesses is Tyler Hamilton. Under oath, behind closed doors, Hamilton has told a story that may change the history of sports. Over the years, some former teammates have accused Armstrong of doping. But, it's been said in professional cycling that if Hamilton broke his silence, then the full story of the legendary U.S. Postal Service team would be known.

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Hamilton does that now, in public, for the first time.

"Well, I just told my family for the first time four days ago about all this. It was brutal. Was the first time, really, I confided in them and then told them the whole story, you know, starting from the first time I doped till to up through the end," Hamilton told correspondent Scott Pelley.

Hamilton always denied doping until this moment. He's an Olympic gold medalist who kept the secrets of his sport for 14 years. He refused to cooperate with the federal investigation of Armstrong. But in June, he was served a subpoena which forced him to testify before the grand jury.

"If I could've pressed the button, if I could've deleted memory, you know, from when I was born up till the present moment, I probably would've pressed that button," Hamilton said.

Asked why, he told Pelley, "'Cause it was awful. What I went through was awful. There was a time I just wanted it all to disappear."

Hamilton sat down with "60 Minutes," reluctantly, because what he had to say would ruin his record as a champion cyclist and implicate Armstrong, to whom he still feels gratitude for their years as teammates. Hamilton helped lead Armstrong to victory in three Tour de France races, in 1999, then 2000, and 2001.

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In racing, the team leader is protected by his teammates. They clear his path, also fend of challengers in the tight pack of competitors that's known as a "peloton." Armstrong was the leader of the team sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service.

His top teammates, who led him to victory again and again, were Hamilton and George Hincapie. They were constant companions and kept each other's secrets.

"For the record, tell me what you saw in terms of what Lance Armstrong took in performance enhancing drugs," Pelley asked Hamilton.

"He took what we all took, really no difference between Lance Armstrong and I'd say the majority of the peloton, you know. There was EPO, there was testosterone, I did see a transfusion, a blood transfusion," he replied.

All of those things are banned in races and in training. So why would a rider take the chance of getting caught?

Well, it's hard to imagine the endurance demanded by the Tour de France - 21 days, 2,000 miles and a vicious vertical climb totaling some 50,000 feet in all. This ordeal is one reason that cycling became a dirty sport. Armstrong won seven times. And in those seven races, all of the second and third place finishers, except one, were at some point implicated in doping.

Armstrong's story appeared miraculous. He'd won more tours than any man and claimed to have done it as one of the only clean racers at the top of the sport.

"Is there evidence? Where's evidence of doping here?" Armstrong said, while talking to reporters at a bike race.

If there's little physical evidence, Hamilton says there are a number of witnesses. He told us that Armstrong was doping the very first time he won the tour. One of the drugs, EPO, boosts the production of red blood cells to enhance endurance.

"He was using EPO in the Tour de France in 1999?" Pelley asked.

"Correct," Hamilton said.

"He was using EPO in the Tour de France in the year 2000?" Pelley asked.

"He used it before to prepare for the Tour," Hamilton said.

"And what about the Tour in 2001?" Pelley asked.

"He used it to prepare for the Tour. I can't say that he used it during the Tour," Hamilton said.

Asked what he actually witnessed, Hamilton told Pelley, "I saw it in his refrigerator, you know. I saw him inject it more than one time."

"You saw Lance Armstrong inject EPO?" Pelley asked.

"Yeah, like we all did, like I did many, many times," Hamilton said.

"You saw it more than once?" Pelley asked.

"I think I saw it a couple times," Hamilton replied.

Produced by Michael Radutzky and Tanya Simon

It appears the federal investigation with its subpoenas and sworn grand jury testimony has broken cycling's code of silence. We don't know how many U.S. Postal Service team riders were using performance enhancing drugs, but we have learned that at least three have told federal authorities they used banned substances and witnessed Armstrong using them too.

One of those riders is Armstrong's former teammate George Hincapie, who Armstrong once said was like a brother to him. Hincapie has never been tainted by scandal. He rode next to Armstrong in all seven Tour de France victories.

But now we're told that Hincapie, for the first time, has told federal investigators that he and Armstrong supplied each other with the blood booster EPO and discussed having used testosterone, another banned substance, during their preparation for races.

Through his attorney, Hincapie declined to be interviewed, citing the ongoing investigation.

"Is it just a bunch of guys making decisions on their own about what they want to do? Or is this a doping program that was directed for the rest of the team?" Pelley asked Tyler Hamilton.

"You know, the team really encouraged it," he replied.

"The team management?" Pelley asked.

"The team management encouraged it, yes," Hamilton said.

The team at the time was managed by Johan Bruyneel and Hamilton says some of the team doctors supervised the doping. He's not the only member of the team to tell us that doping on U.S. Postal was both directed and systematic.

We spoke to a former team member who did not want to be named. But he said that he was instructed by some team doctors to use EPO and that Armstrong recommended he use the banned steroid cortisone before time trials. Neither Bruyneel nor the team doctors we contacted wanted to comment. Prosecutors are investigating which of the team's managers or doctors may have been involved in illicit doping.

"Was Lance Armstrong encouraging the doping?" Pelley asked Hamilton.

"He obviously was the biggest rider in the team and he helped to call the shots. Yes, he doped himself, you know, like everybody else but he was just being part of the culture of the sport. But yeah, I mean, he was the leader of the team and he expected for going in, for example the '99 Tour, which was his first tour that he won we were gonna do everything possible to help Lance win. We had one objective, that's it," Hamilton said.

It was in that 1999 Tour de France that Hamilton says Armstrong used another drug called "Andriol."

"Basically Andriol is just in a little red pill, but basically what's inside is just oil, a special oil. Another way to take it was just you'd get a little, like, eyedropper thing and you'd have a little glass container of it. I saw him take it that way, too, with me, you know," Hamilton said.

"And that oil was what?" Pelley asked.

"Testosterone," Hamilton said.

"Another banned substance?" Pelley asked.

"Correct," Hamilton replied.

Asked if they did this together, Hamilton said, "I remember one time after a race getting a drop of oil from him, you know, he put it, just squirt it in my mouth, squirted in a teammate's mouth and squirted it in his own mouth, you know. Just a tiny amount, enough that's not gonna be detectable the next day when you get drug tested."

Hamilton told us that doping was happening on the U.S. Postal Service team before Armstrong joined. The best riders got special treatment.

"I remember seeing some of the stronger guys in the team getting handed these white lunch bags," Hamilton remembered. "So finally I, you know, started puttin' two and two together and you know, basically there were doping products in those white lunch bags."

"You weren't getting one in the beginning?" Pelley asked.

"No," Hamilton said.

But he told Pelley that eventually he did get one of those bags.

"And inside the bag was what?" Pelley asked.

"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.

Hamilton says those secret cell phones he mentioned were not registered in their names and they used them just in case the authorities were listening.

Hamilton told Pelley other members of the team had secret phones, including Armstrong.

Through a representative, Armstrong denied sending the EPO.

Hamilton says that some of the top riders on the team also used another method to boost red blood cells: a banned technique called "blood doping."

In blood doping, a rider gives his own blood, stores it, and then, at a critical point in the Tour, transfuses the blood back into his body. The fresh blood boosts the red blood cells in a worn out rider.

Hamilton says he first encountered blood doping in the year 2000 as he and Armstrong were preparing for the Tour de France. He says that he was instructed by Armstrong to join him on a private jet for a flight from France to Valencia, Spain.

Asked what happened when he arrived in Spain, Hamilton said, "A staff member met us at the airport. We were quickly shipped to, driven to a hotel. Went up to two different rooms, a teammate and I in one room and Lance in another. They instructed us to lie down on the bed and they basically extracted blood. I think it was 450 ccs of blood."

That's about a pint of blood, and around ten days into the 2000 Tour de France, about halfway through the race, Hamilton says the team members stopped at a hotel where the fresh blood was transfused back into their bodies.

"Did you see Lance Armstrong getting the blood transfusion?" Pelley asked.

"Yeah," Hamilton replied.

"You didn't see them take his blood weeks before, but you saw the transfusion going back into his blood during the Tour de France race in 2000?" Pelley asked.

"Yeah, but I was transfusing blood. And my teammate was. And I guarantee you every other team had probably two or three riders that were doing the same thing. I'd bet my life on it," Hamilton said.

Hamilton says the story he's telling in this interview is the same one that he told under oath to the grand jury. In return for his testimony, the government has given him limited immunity from prosecution. But as part of that deal, if he's found to be lying, he loses that immunity and becomes liable for prosecution.

"You know, Lance Armstrong has dismissed everyone who has spoken out against him as having an ax to grind. He says they have no credibility. And he might say that you have no credibility because now in this interview you're admitting that you doped and that the only reason you're speaking out now is because the government gave you a deal. What do you say to that?" Pelley asked Hamilton.

"I'm tellin' the truth," he replied. "And yeah, I'm sure he'll come out with accusations. And you know, I feel bad that I had to go here and do this. But I think at end of the day like I said, long term, the sport's gonna be better for it."

"If what you're saying about Armstrong is true, that he is essentially in your estimation a cheat and a liar, how is it possible that he's gotten away with that all this time?" Pelley asked.

"Well, there's a lotta other cheats and liars out there too who've gotten away with it. It's not just Lance, you know? I mean with a little luck I'd still be out there today being a cheat and liar," Hamilton said.

Over weeks, we've had several conversations with Armstrong and his lawyers. We told them in detail about the allegations. They declined an interview.

Armstrong's representative sent a statement attacking Armstrong's accusers as motivated by "greed and a hunger for publicity." The statement also attacks the federal investigation saying, "The time has long passed for this nonsensical investigation to stop and for the enormous wasted resources to be re-directed to investigations that might actually protect Americans from wrongdoing." The statement did not address any of our questions about doping.

Armstrong has been tested for performance enhancing drugs hundreds of times. He insists he has never tested positive. That claim is the cornerstone of his public image, and it's also the pledge he made to the U.S. government when his team accepted a multi-million dollar sponsorship from the United States Postal Service.

Prosecutors are now investigating whether that pledge was a lie and, if so, whether it constituted fraud against the United States. They are also asking whether laws against trafficking and distribution may have been violated.

We've learned that authorities are looking into one particular drug test taken in 2001. We asked Armstrong's close teammate Tyler Hamilton about that test that came during a race in Switzerland.

"As you know, Lance Armstrong has repeatedly said that he has never doped and that he's never failed a doping test. Do you have any reason to doubt his claim that he's never failed a test?" Pelley asked.

"Yeah. I know he's had a positive test before," Hamilton said.

Hamilton told Pelley that Armstrong tested positive for EPO. Asked when and where, he said, "I mean, it's hard for me to talk about this, you know? Ah, Tour of Switzerland. 2001."

"How do you know he had a positive test?" Pelley asked.

"He told me," Hamilton said.

It was June 2001; The Tour de Suisse was a warm up race for the Tour de France. A positive test would keep a rider out of the big event, but Hamilton says Armstrong wasn't worried.

"He was so relaxed about it and he kinda just said it off the cuff and kinda laughed it off that it helped me sorta stay relaxed because obviously, if he had a positive test, the team's gonna lose the sponsorship, I'm gonna lose my job. Not only am I gonna lose my job but, you know, 50 to 60 other people are gonna lose their jobs. Probably won't get to do the Tour de France. There were a lotta consequences to a positive test," Hamilton said.

"But, there don't seem to have been any consequences," Pelley remarked.

"No," Hamilton said.

Asked what happened, Hamilton said, "People took care of it."

Asked what that means, Hamilton told Pelley, "I don't know all the exact details. But I know that Lance's people and the people from the other side from, I believe from the governing body of the sport figured out a way for it to go away."

"Why do you say that? How do you know that?" Pelley asked.

"I was told this," Hamilton replied.

Asked by whom he was told this, Hamilton said, "Lance."

The sport is governed by the International Cycling Union, also known as the UCI. The incident is under investigation by federal prosecutors and by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

"60 Minutes" has obtained a letter that was sent from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency requesting information from the Swiss lab that did the test. That letter reveals that the lab found the initial test of a urine sample "suspicious" and "consistent with EPO use." We have also learned that the lab director met with Johan Bruyneel, the U.S. Postal Service team's manager, and Armstrong.

Such a meeting would be highly unusual according to David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

"What would be wrong with either the athlete or the athlete's coach being in this meeting with the lab director?" Pelley asked.

"You can't have a situation where you have athletes going and having one-on-one conversations with lab just for the mere perception that that would be wrong. We can't have a situation where athletes get preferential treatment, preferential information, or even meetings of that nature," Howman said.

We are told that the Swiss lab director has given a sworn statement to the FBI. An official familiar with the investigation says that the lab director told the FBI that a representative of the International Cycling Union wanted the matter of the suspicious test to go no further. The lab director also said that the meeting with Bruyneel and Armstrong was arranged by the International Cycling Union itself.

The lab director says that testing procedures were discussed during that meeting, which Howman believes could be very valuable to someone seeking to beat the test.

"The sophisticated doper can beat the tests...if he knows what he's doing," Pelley remarked.

"Yes," Howman said. "I've used the example of Marion Jones to exemplify that. She ran for many years, won many events. I think gave more than 160 samples for analysis. Not once did she test positive. She held her hand up and said, 'I have tested hundreds of times and never tested positive.' What did that mean? Nothing."

"And after a criminal investigation, she finally admitted that she had been using performance-enhancing drugs," Pelley pointed out.

"And went to jail. And served her time," Howman said.

Whether or not Armstrong was able to get preferential treatment, there is something else that concerns Howman: around the time the International Cycling Union (UCI) arranged that unusual meeting, Armstrong donated $25,000 to the UCI -- the same organization that polices doping.

Three years later, he announced another $100,000 donation. Armstrong says that he was supporting anti-doping efforts

"It doesn't look good when you are effectively giving money to the people who have your fate in their hands. And the testing program," Howman said.

Asked if other cyclists have done the same thing, Howman said, "Not to my knowledge. I have not heard of any other athlete in any other country in any other sport having done that. It's unique."

Asked if it's inappropriate, Howman said, "Totally inappropriate, I would have thought."

The International Cycling Union strongly denies that Armstrong's donations were inappropriate. We asked the International Cycling Union to provide us with the test results from the 2001 Tour de Suisse. They said they couldn't because of rider confidentiality.

However in a letter given to us by Armstrong's attorney, UCI said "none of the samples reported positive...belongs to Mr. Lance Armstrong."

We have learned that another focus of federal authorities is the relationship between Armstrong and Michele Ferrari, an Italian doctor and famous trainer of top cyclists.

"Armstrong has always maintained that Dr. Ferrari provided him with a training regimen and never ever gave him performance enhancing drugs. Based on your personal knowledge, is that true?" Pelley asked Tyler Hamilton.

"I can't say I saw Michele Ferrari ever give Lance Armstrong performance enhancing drugs. But, do I know for a fact that they talked about performance enhancing drugs and how to take it and when and when, how, and why? Yes," Hamilton said.

"And how do you know that?" Pelley asked.

"'Cause I heard it," Hamilton said.

"You were there?" Pelley asked.

"Yeah, yeah," Hamilton said.

"Those conversations were about what?" Pelley asked.

"Drugs. I mean, a lotta other things. Michele Ferrari is (an) amazing coach, a trainer. He's a brilliant guy. He taught Lance how to train properly. Obviously, in cycling there's more than just training and resting and eating correctly. There's one more element, the doping part. And he gave him, you know, a doping schedule," Hamilton said.

Hamilton told us that he too worked with Ferrari for about a year and received a doping schedule for taking EPO. Ferrari declined to comment. He was banned from the sport by the Italian cycling federation in 2002. Armstrong says that he ended his professional relationship with Ferrari in 2004. But Italian investigators say that there is evidence Armstrong and his representatives continued making large payments to Ferrari through 2010.

As we said, Armstrong declined to appear in this story, so we've put together several things that he's said about doping in the past, in his own words.

This is 2001: "I have the facts on my side and that's what they don't know, what they've done is, they've written, as I said, they've written the conclusion and then they've tried to fill in the rest, with a house of cards and with speculation and with innuendo. Explain to me how we've passed so many tests if we're so dirty and they don't want to answer that question and that's not fair."

This is a news conference in 2004: "We got nothing to hide, we know that, everybody knows that, we've, we've proven time in and time out that that we're clean and I can tell you that the controls today in cycling in 2004 are a hell of a lot more than they ever were before and they're a lot more than any other sport."

And finally, Armstrong said this last year, when another former teammate, Floyd Landis, accused him of doping: "It's his word versus ours. We like our word, we like where we stand, we like our credibility."

Hamilton left Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service team in late 2001 to lead a competing team; in 2004 he went on to win a gold medal for the United States at the Athens Olympics.

"It was just an amazing feeling. I was ecstatic and I slept with the gold medal on the coffee table right next to the bed. I remember wakin' up that first night and waking up thinking, like, 'Was that just a dream?' and looking over and there it was and, like, 'Wow, this was real,'" Hamilton remembered.

But the dream didn't last. Not long after the Olympics, questions were raised about whether he was doping.

Asked if he was doping at the Olympics, Hamilton told Pelley, "For the Olympics, no. But it's possible, you know, through residual effects from previous races that there was some performance enhancement."

At a race, weeks later, Hamilton tested positive for blood doping and when asked about it under oath, he denied that he had ever doped and said that there was no doping program on the U.S. Postal Service team.

"I felt like if I told the truth, 'Yeah, I doped before, doin' EPO and testosterone and occasional transfusion of my own blood,' then I woulda had to open the doors and tell the whole truth, not just a little bit of the truth, but the whole truth. And I would've taken down a lotta people in the sport, lotta old friends, teammates, coworkers, staff members. And, you know, I kept my mouth shut. And it was for the sake of the sport. I didn't wanna hurt it any worse than it's been hurt," Hamilton said.

Hamilton was suspended from cycling for two years and retired in 2009 after testing positive for a banned steroid that he says was contained in an herbal supplement that he was taking to combat depression. Today, even the high points of his career - including the gold medal - are bad memories.

"I don't even like to look at the gold medal anymore 'cause it makes me sad, makes me sad about all the things I've gone through in the sport of cycling. It's just packed away in a safe. I don't go around and show it to people with a lotta pride. The culture of the sport really ruined those feelings for me," Hamilton said.

In anticipation of this broadcast, last Wednesday, Hamilton decided to surrender his Olympic gold medal to U.S. anti-doping authorities. As for his next chapter, Hamilton just turned 40, he's writing a book and coaches young riders in the sport that he still loves.

For many years, cycling enforced a code of silence. As long as riders were outpacing the science of testing, it was in no one's interest to talk about the illicit edge that many enjoyed. In the pack of riders known as the peloton, Armstrong was protected by his loyal lieutenants George Hincapie and Tyler Hamilton.

Now that both men have testified to federal investigators, it will be up to the grand jury to decide whether to bring criminal charges, whether the allegations of cheating have overtaken the legend.

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