Saturday 18 November 2017

Irish aide felt like ‘a drug runner’ working for disgraced Lance Armstrong

Emma O'Reilly giving a massage to Lance Armstrong in 1999
Emma O'Reilly giving a massage to Lance Armstrong in 1999

A FORMER aide of Lance Armstrong has alleged she was used as a "drug runner" during her time working for the US Postal team.

Dubliner Emma O'Reilly, who was Armstrong's personal masseuse and assistant in the 1990s, says she rented a car to travel down to Spain to pick up tablets from US Postal team director Johan Bruyneel before returning to France and giving them to Armstrong.

O'Reilly makes the claims in a BBC Radio 5 Live documentary which will be broadcast tonight.

She said: "I went down in an unmarked car, a good six hours drive, and also that was another reason I knew it was something (untoward) because Lance had said to me 'don't tell your boyfriend'.

"There's no way in hell am I going to bring him down, crossing over a border (and) pick up a package. Basically as I used to say to some of the soigneurs (team assistants), 'you are drug runners', and that's what I was being for the weekend.

"And to involve (her boyfriend) in it, without letting him know that 'here, you can come with me if you want, but here's what I'm doing'....

"So we went down, six hours down that way, Johan gave me the tablets, very discretely, without letting anybody else know that I was getting them, and the following day we want back up to France and then the following morning I met Lance in the car park at McDonald's and just handed them over."

Armstrong was last week labelled a "serial cheat" and a bully who led "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen'' by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which has stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him from cycling for life.

Despite repeatedly denying accusations of doping, in August Armstrong announced he would not fight the doping charges filed against him by USADA, saying in a statement he was "finished with this nonsense" and insisting he was innocent.

On Friday, Bruyneel quit as general manager of the RadioShack Nissan Trek team by mutual agreement, having chosen to contest the USADA charges in an arbitration hearing.

The USADA report states one rider testified "his use of prohibited substances was performed at the direction and with the full knowledge and approval of team director Johan Bruyneel''.

Team Sky, meanwhile, have stated that they carried out checks on the Dutch doctor they employed who was working for Rabobank when two of that team's riders were suspended for drugs use.

Geert Leinders was a doctor for Rabobank when Michael Rasmussen was kicked out of the 2007 Tour de France and when Thomas Dekker tested positive for EPO. He left Team Sky last week.

A Team Sky spokesman said last night: "Dr Leinders worked with Team Sky on a freelance basis and his contract has now ended.

"This summer, as promised, we looked fully into his work with us, interviewed him and talked to riders and the full medical team.

"We had no doubts about his work with us or his approach. Before employing him we also made checks, gathered references and he was interviewed by (sports psychiatrist) Dr Steve Peters.

"Over the summer we have added to the medical team, using staff from outside cycling, and we continually look for the best ways to work and to support our riders."

Former Team Sky member Michael Barry was one of 11 riders who gave evidence against Armstrong to USADA.

The 36-year-old Canadian was at the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team from 2002 to 2006. Since 2010 he rode for Team Sky before announcing his retirement this year but Team Sky's spokesman continued: "We have had no doubts about Michael being clean during his time at Team Sky.

"We are a clean team and we have shown that you can win clean.

"Michael has retired after 14 years as a professional cyclist. His final race was last month and he is no longer with Team Sky.

"Though we are saddened by the revelations about Michael's early career, he is doing the right thing by admitting to his past and helping the sport to a clean future."

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