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PASO ROBLES, Calif. -- Lance Armstrong's former teammate Tyler Hamilton has told the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes" that he saw Armstrong use performance-enhancing drugs, including the banned blood-booster erythropoietin, in 1999 and two subsequent seasons to help prepare for the Tour de France.
I hope this finds you all doing well.
First of all, sorry for sending this out as a group letter. If there was any way I could come visit each of you individually, I would. I hope we are together soon.
There's no easy way to say this, so let me just say it plain: on Sunday night you'll see me on "60 Minutes" making a confession that's overdue. Long overdue.
During my cycling career, I knowingly broke the rules. I used performance-enhancing drugs. I lied about it, over and over. Worst of all, I hurt people I care about. And while there are reasons for what I did -- reasons I hope you'll understand better after watching -- it doesn't excuse the fact that I did it all, and there's no way on earth to undo it.
The question most people ask is, why now? There are two reasons. The first has to do with the federal investigation into cycling. Last summer, I received a subpoena to testify before a grand jury. Until that moment I walked into the courtroom, I hadn't told a soul. My testimony went on for six hours. For me, it was like the Hoover Dam breaking. I opened up; I told the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And I felt a sense of relief I'd never felt before -- all the secrets, all the weight I'd been carrying around for years suddenly lifted. I saw that, for me personally, this was the way forward.
The second reason has to do with the sport I love. In order to truly reform, cycling needs to change, and change drastically, starting from the top. Now that I'm working as a coach, I see young people entering the sport with hopes of making it to the top. I believe that no one coming into the sport should have to face the difficult choices I had to make. And before the sport can move forward, it has to face the truth.
This hasn't been easy, not by a long shot. But I want to let you know that I'm doing well. The coaching business is more fun and fulfilling than I'd ever imagined, and Tanker (editor's note: Hamilton's Golden retriever) and I are loving our Boulder life. I recently turned 40, and my friends threw the best '80s-themed surprise party in the history of the world (hey, most of you were there!). Life is good.
Again, I just want to say I'm sorry, and that I hope you can forgive me. What matters to me most are my family and friends. I'm deeply grateful for all your support and love through the years, and I'm looking forward to spending time with all of you again, hopefully soon. My mom and dad always told me that the truth would set me free. I never knew how right they were.
"I saw (EPO) in his refrigerator .. I saw him inject it more than one time like we all did, like I did many, many times," Hamilton told 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley. "(Armstrong) took what we all took ... the majority of the peloton. There was EPO ... testosterone ... a blood transfusion."
Mark Fabiani, an Armstrong attorney, said in a statement Thursday: "Tyler Hamilton just duped the CBS Evening News, '60 Minutes' and Scott Pelley all in one fell swoop. Hamilton is actively seeking to make money by writing a book, and now he has completely changed the story he has always told before so that he could get himself on '60 Minutes' and increase his chances with publishers. But greed and a hunger for publicity cannot change the facts: Lance Armstrong is the most tested athlete in the history of sports: He has passed nearly 500 tests over 20 years of competition."Friday, Armstrong told The Daily Beast website that 60 Minutes "basically reneged" on promises made to him. He said "would not call [the 60 Minutes producer] a straight shooter." CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, who is also executive producer of 60 Minutes, told the Daily Beast: "We have been so thorough and fair to Lance Armstrong. Fager added: "We have shared with them every single allegation in our story ... This is a PR game. Our reporters have done a first-class job."
Hamilton wrote and sent a letter Thursday -- also provided to ESPN.com -- to his close friends and family in what he called a "long overdue" confession, admitting to his own doping history after years of vigorous denials.
"During my cycling career, I knowingly broke the rules," Hamilton wrote. "I used performance-enhancing drugs. I lied about it, over and over. Worst of all, I hurt people I care about. And while there are reasons for what I did -- reasons I hope you'll understand better after watching (60 Minutes) -- it doesn't excuse the fact that I did it all, and there's no way on earth to undo it."
Hamilton had previously described his own and his famous teammate's alleged doping in six hours of closed-door testimony before a federal grand jury after being subpoenaed last July.
"20+ year career. 500 drug controls worldwide, in and out of competition. Never a failed test. I rest my case," Armstrong tweeted Thursday night.Friday, Hamilton turned his 2004 Olympic gold medal into the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Hamilton told his family and friends in the letter that testifying before the grand jury felt like "the Hoover Dam breaking." In addition to clearing his own conscience, he said he elected to be interviewed by "60 Minutes" because he hopes it will help bring long-term change to a sport plagued by scandal, dishonesty and corruption.
The 40-year-old Marblehead, Mass., native retired in April 2009 after announcing he had knowingly committed a second doping offense. He served a mandatory two-year suspension after his first conviction, for a banned transfusion -- a result he contested vigorously through two rounds of arbitration. His second positive test was for the legal steroid-precursor DHEA, which he said he knowingly ingested in an over-the-counter herbal anti-depressant in February 2009.
When he announced his retirement, Hamilton, then riding for the Rock Racing team, said he had been in a "desperate" state of mind as he fought an ongoing struggle with clinical depression that was first diagnosed in 2003. Hamilton said he stopped taking his prescribed medication, spiraled downward emotionally and took the supplement even though DHEA was clearly listed among the ingredients. He insisted that he did not take it for performance-enhancing purposes.
This is the second time in two years that a blockbuster story will have broken in the middle of the Tour of California, the premier stage race in the United States.
A year ago, Floyd Landis' doping confession and allegations that Armstrong and other riders and cycling officials had been part of organized doping at the U.S. Postal Service teams of a decade ago blew up when his detailed emails leaked. Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title after testing positive for synthetic testosterone, first confirmed and elaborated on the accusations in a lengthy interview with ESPN.com.
The media descended on the race start the next morning. Armstrong, RadioShack team director Johan Bruyneel and every other individual named by Landis denied the allegations. Armstrong crashed out of the race the same day.
The seven-time Tour de France winner suffered through a mediocre performance in last year's Tour and retired last February.
Landis had already met with U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officials and federal investigators when he went public. Investigators led by U.S. Food and Drug Administration special agent Jeff Novitzky -- also the lead investigator in the BALCO case -- had already been gathering evidence in a probe of Rock Racing and its owner, Michael Ball, and expanded their inquiry.
A grand jury seated in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California sometime during the first half of 2010 began hearing testimony and reviewing documents regarding the Armstrong case in July. Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Miller, who is based in Los Angeles, is standing behind the investigation.
Hamilton and Landis did not overlap at Postal, although the two men's careers have been intertwined for years. Both were primary support riders for Armstrong; both left to seek their own fortunes with European-based outfits and later rode for the Swiss Phonak team; and both waged costly, ultimately unsuccessful legal battles to overturn their positive doping tests through two rounds of arbitration.
After riding in support of Armstrong's first three Tour victories, Hamilton jumped to the Denmark-based CSC team owned and managed by Bjarne Riis -- the 1996 Tour de France champion who confessed to doping more than a decade later -- before the 2002 season.
Hamilton was a co-leader at CSC for the next two years and did the best racing of his career during that stretch, winning two spring classics, a stage of the Tour de France and the 2004 Olympic gold medal in the time trial event. He subsequently announced that he had signed with Phonak for the 2005 season, as did Landis. But Hamilton's positive test for a banned transfusion at the Vuelta d'Espana in September forced him off the bike and Landis succeeded him as team leader.The International Olympic Committee could strip Hamilton of his gold medal, IOC vice president Thomas Bach told The Associated Press on Friday. Bach said the committee will examine Hamilton's statements that he doped throughout his career. "If there is any need or possibility to take action we will do it," said Bach, who heads most of the IOC's doping investigations. Bach said he hasn't seen Hamilton's statements yet but "we will look into this." The IOC can retroactively strip Olympic medals if proof of doping emerges later or an athlete admits to cheating. The IOC took away Marion Jones' five medals from the 2000 Sydney Games after she admitted using performance-enhancing drugs. The 60 Minutes segment, which will air in its entirety Sunday, also includes an interview with another former Armstrong teammate, Frankie Andreu. Now one of the race directors at the Tour of California, Andreu told Pelley he took banned substances because lesser riders he believed were doping were passing him. "Training alone wasn't doing it and I think that's how ... many of the other riders during that era felt, I mean, you kind of didn't have a choice," he is quoted as saying. Andreu's wife, Betsy, who has said Armstrong discussed taking performance-enhancing drugs as doctors prepared him for cancer treatment in 1996, said she and her husband are working with investigators. "We are cooperating, and we'll just tell the truth. And telling the truth has been costly," she said. "It's not popular to tell the truth about Lance." Andreu and Hamilton were both in on the ground floor of Armstrong's record-breaking Tour de France domination, and were among the key cyclists he relied on and lived with as he put his grip on the three-week race. They both rode with Armstrong for the first two Tours that he won, in 1999 and 2000, all together under U.S. Postal colors. Hamilton rode with Armstrong on his 2001 Tour win for U.S. Postal, too. Andreu's Tour links with Armstrong also predate the start of his winning streak. Andreu and Armstrong were teamed together at Motorola for the 1993, '94, '95 and '96 Tours. In his biography, "It's Not About the Bike," Armstrong described Andreu on that first winning Tour in 1999 as "a big powerful sprinter and our captain, an accomplished veteran who had known me since I was a teenager."
According to the CBS release, Hamilton will also corroborate an episode Landis described a year ago in his leaked emails. Hamilton told Pelley that Armstrong said he had tested positive for EPO prior to the 2001 Tour of Switzerland. In Landis' account, Armstrong said the positive test was never reported because Armstrong made a "financial agreement" with Hein Verbruggen, then president of the UCI, cycling's international governing body. Both Armstrong and Verbruggen have denied the allegation.
Landis said late Thursday that he was glad another former Armstrong teammate had stepped forward. "As much as I've tried, I can't stop caring what people think of me,'' he said of his feeling of isolation as Armstrong's most prominent accuser. "We just doubled the number of people telling the real story... I think (Hamilton) probably feels liberated.''
Hamilton received an eight-year ban from the sport after his second doping offense. Landis rode for a season and a half after returning from his two-year suspension in early 2009, but retired from professional cycling in January after his efforts to find a job with an elite team proved futile. He said he felt his revelations had made him anathema to top teams.
Now divorced and living in Boulder, Colo., Hamilton has been running a coaching business.Friday, two former Armstrong teammates told The Associated Press that they never saw Armstrong or Hamilton used banned substances. Pascal Derame, a Frenchman who was on the 1999 Tour-winning team with Armstrong and Hamilton, said he wasn't in Armstrong's "inner circle." "I never saw [Armstrong] take anything," Derame said. "I cannot say what I didn't see." Another former teammate of Armstrong and Hamilton, Steffen Kjaergaard of Norway, rode on U.S. Postal's Tour de France team in 2000 and 2001. "I didn't feel any pressure of doing any prohibited thing to be stronger, to do doping," Kjaergaard said. "I didn't have any hints, 'You should do this. You should do that.' "
Bonnie D. Ford covers Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.