SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (VN) – George Hincapie and Jim Ochowicz of BMC Racing were two of embattled Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong’s closest companions for much of his career. Ochowicz Thursday night called former U.S. Postal Service rider Tyler Hamilton’s accusations that he witnessed Armstrong use EPO “outrageous,” while Hincapie reserved comment.
Hamilton’s accusations will air Sunday evening on the “60 Minutes” news magazine show.
Hincapie, the only rider to accompany Armstrong through each of his seven Tour de France titles, and Ochowicz, who recruited the Texan into the professional ranks with Motorola in August of 1992, refused to comment on the latest in a string of accusations against Armstrong.
Hincapie is believed to have testified before the federal grand jury investigating claims that Armstrong took part in an organized doping program with the postal service-backed team.
“I know you’ve got a job and you’ve got to ask these questions. I’ve got a job too,” Hincapie told VeloNews at the team’s hotel in Paso Robles, California. “My job’s here to race my bike, promote the sport that we all love; that I’ve sacrificed my whole life for and I just have no interest in dragging this sport through the mud, so I’m sorry, but I have no comment.”
Ochowicz claimed he hadn’t seen interview excerpts as he was on a bike ride when they ran just after 5:00 p.m. local time. The BMC Racing president held the same position at the U.S. Cycling Federation between 2002 and 2006. He was not involved with the U.S. Postal Service team in an official capacity.
“I don’t have an opinion. I wasn’t there,” he said. “I don’t want to comment on something that’s that outrageous of a statement. It’s too bad that something like that would be said. I have no idea. It’s a pity.”
Doping controversy has marred the Amgen Tour each of the last two years. The latest news comes on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Floyd Landis’ bombshell accusation that Armstrong and he, among other teammates, engaged in systematic doping on the Postal team.
Hincapie said the timing of the announcement from CBS Sports was “unfortunate.”
“Look at all the fans out here; the race is doing awesome,” said Hincapie. “It has incredible support and incredible sponsors. I believe in cycling. I believe in what cycling has done. I believe cycling has done more than any other sport to make it a clean sport. Why can’t we focus on that?”
Ochowicz said Hamilton’s accusations were old news. “I can’t answer that question (about the damage to the race), but I think the sport’s a great sport and there are a lot of good things about it,” he said. “This is old news. This is not new news about this race. It has no effect on my opinion about this race at all.”
When asked whether he had a reason to disbelieve Hamilton, Hincapie, who rode with him at Postal from 1997 to 2001, said, “I’m sorry. I’m not commenting.”