The Swiss lab director who has attracted the attention of federal and anti-doping investigators trying to determine whether Lance Armstrong covered up a positive drug test for erythropoietin (EPO) from the 2001 Tour de Suisse said Friday that there was no positive test and no clandestine meeting between him and Armstrong and, as far as he knew, appropriate drug-testing procedures were followed.
“I never suspect mishandling of the result by UCI,” the lab director Martial Saugy said in an e-mail to The Post, referring to the International Cycling Union. “It was not a positive result. The same [actions] would occur today.”
On Sunday, a former teammate of Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, said on “60 Minutes” that he saw Armstrong use drugs and that the seven-time Tour de France champion told him he had tested positive for EPO at the 2001 Tour de Suisse — a race that falls under Saugy’s testing jurisdiction. Hamilton also said Armstrong told him he had conspired with international cycling officials to cover up the result.
Last summer, after another former teammate of Armstrong’s, Floyd Landis, made similar charges, Saugy informed World Anti-Doping Agency Director General David Howman that there were “suspicious” results from the 2001 Tour de Suisse.
Saugy told the German-language newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung in Friday’s editions that he did not know if any of the four suspicious results he uncovered were Armstrong’s, and that none was technically positive.
Armstrong, who won seven Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005 and has repeatedly stated that he never used performance-enhancing drugs, has been under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles since last summer.
Armstrong’s publicist, Mark Fabiani, said in a statement that Saugy’s comments “debunk” the claims made in Sunday’s televised report and ”underscore the evil of sloppy, opportunistic attacks on a hero to those battling cancer, based on false, leaked information about long ago bicycle races in Europe.”
Howman said he cut short his conversation with Saugy, wanting to put him in touch with investigators from the Food and Drug Administration and FBI involved in the federal probe of Armstrong. In September, Saugy was interviewed by the FDA, FBI and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency at WADA’s Montreal headquarters.
A test is deemed suspicious, and designated for follow-up testing, if it shows unusual levels of a substance but does not cross the threshold of being positive. Labs are careful about reporting tests as positive when they are uncertain, to ensure that athletes are not falsely accused. When suspicious results do emerge, it is the responsibility of the testing agency — in this case, UCI — to order follow-up tests on the athlete in question to try to determine why the results seem abnormal.
Saugy said he believed procedures were followed in the case, though he acknowledged not having full access to UCI’s response.
“I think that UCI did proceed appropriately,” Saugy told The Post. “At the time, they certainly did other tests, but did not comment them to us specifically.”
Saugy also said that a meeting he had with Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel regarding EPO testing occurred in 2002, about a year after the 2001 race, and had nothing to do with results from the ’01 race.
He said it was part of an attempt to provide general education on a new testing method that had been controversial with athletes because of early problems. Indeed, in 2001 a positive EPO test of a world-class middle distance runner was thrown out because the testing method used hadn’t been properly certified.
“The meeting was organized one year later at a period when the test was very much criticized by the sport and the scientific community,” Saugy said. “The meeting was organized . . . by UCI in respect to the transparency needed or requested by the athletes in general on the methods of detection of doping from the labs.”
The EPO test remained controversial through 2005, when three triathletes had their positive results for the drug overturned.