Hamilton says Armstrong gave him blood booster

By Jim Vertuno ,AP

AUSTIN, Texas — Tyler Hamilton says Lance Armstrong gave him an illegal blood booster at his house before the 1999 Tour de France and the two teammates compared notes on using performance-enhancing drugs as far back as 1998.

Hamilton makes the allegations in his book, “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France, Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs,” set to be published Sept. 5. The Associated Press purchased a copy Thursday. Armstrong agent Bill Stapleton did not immediately respond to a request for comment

Hamilton and Armstrong rode together on the U.S. Postal Service team.

Armstrong has long denied doping but last week chose not to fight drug charges made by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). USADA has erased 14 years of Armstrong’s competitive results, including his seven Tour de France titles.

The book mirrors much of what Hamilton told “60 Minutes” in 2011 and what he said he told federal criminal investigators looking into doping allegations on the Postal Service team. Officials closed that investigation in February without bringing any charges against Armstrong.

Hamilton details his own drug use and says usage on the team started even before Armstrong joined in 1998. He and Armstrong soon became roommates and confidants who would discuss using the blood-booster EPO and other performance-enhancing drugs.

He said while visiting Armstrong’s home in Nice shortly before the 1999 Tour, he asked the Texan if he had any EPO and Armstrong pointed to the refrigerator.

Hamilton described a doping plan put in place by the team for the 1999 Tour de France, with Armstrong’s knowledge, that included a motorcyclist riding behind racers with a thermos full of EPO. It was to be dispensed to riders in the team camper after race stages.

He said team leaders, doctors and mangers encouraged and supervised doping and performance-enhancing drugs were handed out to cyclists in white lunch bags.

Armstrong has previously sought to discredit Hamilton as a drug cheat who was twice banned for doping and was recently stripped of his 2004 Olympic gold medal.

According to USADA, Hamilton is among its key witnesses ready to testify against Armstrong. In all, it said as many as 10 former teammates were ready to do so. The agency has withheld most of their names, saying it feared Armstrong would try to intimidate them.