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Armstrong refutes Landis

Floyd Landis, right, talks with Lance Armstrong, his one-time teammate who said Thursday: “Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago.”

Getty Images (2005)

Floyd Landis, right, talks with Lance Armstrong, his one-time teammate who said Thursday: “Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago.”

The strongest doping allegations yet against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong surfaced Thursday in a barrage of detailed messages from Floyd Landis, the disgraced rider and former teammate who finally confessed to years of cheating himself.

In e-mails sent to sponsors and sports officials, Landis alleged Armstrong joined him in doping, taught others how to beat the system and paid the former president of the International Cycling Union to keep a failed test quiet.

"We have nothing to hide," Armstrong said before the fifth stage of the Tour of California, during which he would later crash and drop out.

"Credibility," Armstrong said. "Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago."

Landis, 34, admitted for the first time what had long been suspected — that he was guilty of doping for several years before being stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title.

"I want to clear my conscience," Landis told ESPN.com. "I don't want to be part of the problem any more."

Landis alleged that Armstrong and longtime coach Johan Bruyneel paid former UCI president Hein Verbruggen to cover up a test in 2002 after Armstrong purportedly tested positive for the blood-boosting drug EPO. The UCI denied changing or concealing a positive test result.

Landis said Armstrong's positive EPO test was in 2002, around the time he won the Tour de Suisse. Armstrong won the Tour de Suisse in 2001 and did not compete in 2002.

"We're a little confused," Armstrong, 38, said.

Landis also implicated at least 16 others in various doping acts, including longtime Armstrong confidant George Hincapie, Olympic medalist Levi Leipheimer and top American racer Dave Zabriskie.

"At the end of the day, he pointed the finger at everybody still involved in cycling, everybody that's still enjoying the sport, everybody that still believes in the sport, everybody that's still working in the sport, was in the crosshairs," Armstrong said. "Yes, I'm standing here with all you guys because I won the Tour de France seven times."

Three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond, who has feuded with Armstrong for years over the doping suspicions, came to Landis' defense.

"I believe most of Floyd Landis' statements regarding the systemic corruption in professional cycling," LeMond said in a statement he sent to the New York Daily News. "It is clear to me Floyd has paid a heavy price, and I support Floyd in his attempt to free himself from his past."

Armstrong has never had a positive test in a sport that catches more cheaters — including the stars — than any other. He was a world-class triathlete at 15, and that was before cancer and arguably the toughest training regimen undertaken by a human.

He has had the most money, best team, best support staff, biggest sponsors, state-of-the-art equipment and a pain threshold his oncologist still marveled at years after Armstrong left his care.

In short, Armstrong availed himself of every advantage the rule book allowed, often in triplicate. And whether as plaintiff or defendant, he has won every court case he fought, a point he made again Thursday.

Armstrong's detractors will see the new details as more pieces of a puzzle that has yet to be solved.

"A lot of these people have been caught … and always point the finger at Lance Armstrong,'' Emory University sports medicine physician R. Amadeus G. Mason said. "The tough thing is that he's been subject to the same testing that they have, and they're telling us that he's using the same kind of drugs, but he has not been caught.

"There's a reason for that. To me, that's saying that either he's using something super that they're not using or he's not using."

Armstrong refutes Landis 05/20/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 20, 2010 11:12pm]

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