The chief doctor of the U.S. Postal Service-backed cycling team for five of Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France wins said allegations by former member Floyd Landis of a doping regime on the squad aren’t credible.
U.S. authorities are investigating after Landis made the claims in e-mails to cycling officials this year. In an April 30 e-mail, Landis said that at the 2003 Vuelta a Espana race a team doctor he didn’t name gave him blood transfusions to increase stamina along with Andriol, a synthetic testosterone.
Luis Garcia del Moral, who said he oversaw two other medical staff members on the team from 1999 to 2003, said Landis’s claims are “ridiculous” and he wasn’t aware of any cheating. Landis also accused Armstrong of blood doping, a claim the seven-time Tour champion denies.
“It seems crazy, I don’t know this part of the story of the U.S. Postal team, of course,” Garcia del Moral said in a telephone interview. Landis, stripped of his 2006 Tour title for doping, is trying to “make some money” after losing his fortune, Garcia del Moral added.
Landis said in 2007 that he spent more than $1 million in legal fees fighting his Tour disqualification, about half of which was paid through donations. He hasn’t secured a berth on a top-level team since serving a two-year ban. Landis didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment.
Garcia del Moral, who now runs a sports medicine practice in Valencia, Spain, joined Armstrong and team sports director Johan Bruyneel in denying Landis’s account. The New York Times reported on Aug. 5 that another former team member, speaking to federal investigators, backed Landis’s claims about widespread doping. The newspaper didn’t identify the rider.
The investigation is pursuing “dated and discredited allegations,” Bryan Daly, Armstrong’s attorney, said in an Aug. 5 statement. Bruyneel, of Belgium, formally denied Landis’s claims as part of an inquiry by his national cycling federation, the organization said on July 8.
Garcia del Moral, who had worked with the Spanish cycling federation, said he was hired by Bruyneel and oversaw another Spanish doctor, Jose Aramendi, and an Italian physician he identified as Nino on the U.S. Postal team. He also worked with a fitness trainer, Pepe Marti, another Spaniard.
Landis said he was sold human growth hormone by the team trainer in 2003, according to the April e-mail to USA Cycling Chief Executive Steve Johnson. Marti worked with Tour de France champion Alberto Contador on the Astana team this year and is likely to switch with him to the Saxo Bank team next year, Contador’s spokesman Jacinto Vidarte said.
Willing to Speak
Marti is “not going to make any comment,” Vidarte said. Astana officials didn’t respond to requests by phone and e-mail for a comment from Marti. Aramendi didn’t immediately return an e-mail sent to his clinic, and a staff member said he was on vacation and unavailable.
Garcia del Moral said he’d be willing to speak to U.S. investigators if asked, although he is unable to break patient confidentiality rules.
“I can’t speak freely on medical matters because of medical confidentiality,” he said. “If a judge asks me, then I’ll have to consider that when the time comes.”