Earlier this week, Millar told The Guardian: "I’d like to explain the dangers [of doping] to young riders. I am someone who can give reasons why cyclists should not take drugs. I want to show how I got round the system. I think it’s the one thing I can do."
This meshes with Andy Hampsten’s plans to help found a type of Dopers Anonymous for pro athletes, especially cyclists. In his day, Hampsten was one of the toughest riders around, a noted climber, famous for the lone breakaway in the 1988 Giro d’Italia which saw him battling to the top of the Gavia pass in a snowstorm.
Today, he has a high-end bike company – Hampsten Cycles – run with his brother, Steve, and a Tuscany bike tour company selling holidays to fit roadies.
Andy Hampsten used to ride with Armstrong on the Motorola team. He has no truck with riders who dope. In an open letter penned for Bikecafe.com, a website for which he writes a column, he said:
"Something needs to be done to clean up [cycling], not only for the sake of the riders health, but also for the sake of returning our sport to the truths of human spirit, valor, and talent…It is irresponsible for us to encourage kids to race and potentially turn pro without doing all we can to change cycling back to a sport where they will not likely be asked to take drugs that could ultimately destroy their natural good health, their characters, and their bodies."
Hampsten wrote the open letter to offer his support to Greg Lemond, three-times winner of the Tour de France.
Lemond has been pouring scorn on Lance Armstrong’s victories for some years.
Recently, Lemond told Le Monde: "There’s always been a doping problem in our sport, but in the last 10 years, the products have become so powerful that they can literally change the physiology of an athlete. You can transform a mule into a thoroughbred."
Despite having hauled himself out of a hospital bed to win his second Tour de France (he was shot in the back by his brother in law in a 1987 hunting accident and nobody believed he could return to top-level cycling), Lemond questions how Armstrong could survive cancer and then go on to be a better, more successful athlete than before his illness.
To Armstrong’s oft-stated comment that he has never tested positive, Lemond said:
"Everybody says that."
He told Le Monde: "David Millar also never tested positive, but now he’s admitted using EPO… Lance is ready to do anything to keep his secret. But I don’t know how long he’s going to be able to continue convincing people that he’s innocent."
By seemingly siding with Lemond in the open letter on Bikecafe.com and failing to state that he thinks Armstrong is a clean rider, Hampsten could be accused of being anti-Armstrong.
Responding to BikeBiz.com, Hampsten refutes this:
"I am aiming at doping in general. I am not attacking Armstrong himself. I am not enough of a writer to guess that readers needed a large preface to remind everyone that Lance is a huge champion, has won tons of races including during the three years we raced together at Motorola, that he makes enormous contributions to the cancer community and is adored by millions. I figured that was all pretty obvious. And I didn’t quote Lance on his views of this subject. All because with all due respect, I don’t want to talk about Lance and Greg and wives and who knows what else. I want to say our sport is in danger."
Steve Hampsten supports his brother’s plans to help Lemond, and others, found an educational anti-doping organisation:
"We would hope to accomplish this by educating young athletes about the drugs that are available, their effects, the penalties for a positive test, and the hazards of using that particular drug," he told BikeBiz.com.
"We would hope to be able to attract athletes from many different disciplines, including cycling, to support our efforts. If we can make it a reality we will certainly extend a hand to many of the top cyclists to help us along: among those currently racing, Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, and possibly Britain’s own David Millar would all be at the top of my list. I’m sure each of them would have a great deal of insight to offer, if they chose to help."
Who would not be on the list? Dr Michele Ferrari, the sports doctor, subject of an investigation by the Italian justice system since December 2001, that’s who.
In February 2002, rider Filippo Simeoni claimed in court that Ferrari had prescribed him EPO and said the doctor had a system to avoid doping controls. The court case is ongoing, with riders Ivan Gotti and Claudio Chiappucci testifying on behalf of Dr. Ferrari, contradicting many of Simeoni’s claims.
On BikeCafe.com, Andy Hampsten wrote:
"Dr. Michele Ferrari is known to have supported the use of EPO to increase his riders performances. In 94, while his riders dominated the Ardennes Classic, he publicly ridiculed making rules against EPO saying it was safe to use and should not be made illegal in cycling."
Was this attack on Ferrari an attack on Armstrong, too?
"No," Andy Hampsten told BikeBiz.com.
"I am asking why our greatest champion today needs Dr. Ferrari on his payroll."
In L.A. Confidentiel, David Walsh’s French-language book on the supposed "secrets" of Lance Armstrong, the Irish writer asks similar questions, implying that Ferrari’s alleged condoning of EPO-use could be used to tar Armstrong with the same brush. Ferrari denies supporting EPO-use.
By and large, Ferrari – who runs, with his son, 52×12.com, a cycle-specific pay-per-programme training website – gets a bad press. This continued during the recent Tour de France.
Investigators from N.A.S. the Italian drug squad are reported by La Repubblica newspaper to have questioned Simeoni about the incident in stage 18 of the Tour when Armstrong chased down an attack by the Italian rider.
The investigators are said to be considering filing charges against Armstrong for sporting fraud, violence, and intimidation of a witness.
Simeoni, a self-confessed doper, said Armstrong threatened him during stage 18.
He told me: You were wrong to testify against Michele Ferrari; you were wrong to sue me. I have lots of money and lots of time and I will destroy [you]."
In an interview with Le Monde in April 2003, Armstrong, who has long consulted with Dr Ferrari, accused Simeoni of lying. Simeoni countered with a defamation suit against Armstrong, not yet settled.
Lance Armstrong has won six Tours de France because of his hill climbing abilities. Ferrari is a specialist in cycle hill climbing research, having perfected the VAM (velocita ascensionale media) average climbing speed test and, via a database of hill profiles and rider ascent times logged from TV broadcasts, is able to tell Armstrong’s manager, via cellphone, when climbers ahead of Lance will crack.
Armstrong is also renowned for his high cadence on hill climbs. This technique was suggested to Armstrong in 1998 by Ferrari, and Armstrong’s coach, Chris Carmichael.
Famously, Ferrari is often quoted as having said "EPO is no more dangerous than orange juice," a quote that has dogged him since 1994.
In an interview with cyclingnews.com. Ferrari put his side of the story:
"I said what I said as a specific response to a specific question. It’s a long story that certain elements in the Italian media took this quote [from French newspaper l’Equipe] out of context and exaggerated it. They asked me about EPO, if EPO in and of itself was dangerous and I responded that ‘EPO itself has pharmacological indications that are quite precise and of itself, it’s not a dangerous drug. It’s the abuse that’s dangerous. EPO is not dangerous, it’s the abuse that is. It’s also dangerous to drink 10 liters of orange juice.’"
Ferrari told cyclingnews.com he was not in favour of chemical solutions to riders’ problems.
"I’ve always sought to fight against the use of pharmacological products in general in cycling – let’s not even talk about doping – and have sought to propose to professional riders an alternative to use of drugs, legal or otherwise. You can’t just say ‘no’, you have to explain why the alternative is better; yes it may take longer and may be harder, but the results are certainly going to be better."
And, in court, Ferrari has defended himself against pro-doping claims:
"The use of drugs to improve sporting performance is a boomerang for the athlete, because, beside the negative effect on the athlete’s health, it will cause an athlete to think that there are [drugs] that can help them perform even better. I will add that 90 percent of the drugs on the official list of substances considered as doping products don’t work to improve performance, but actually make it worse. Personally, I have always fought these [doping] practices inside the world of [sports] science. For that reason, I categorically deny that I had suggested or prescribed doping products to athletes who came to me for sports preparation."