LONDON (AFP) — In an interview with a British newspaper Betsy Andreu says Lance Armstrong used intimidation and threats in a desperate bid to stop her from going public with claims about his alleged drug use.
Armstrong, who maintains his innocence, has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and banned from the sport for life after the organization charged that he orchestrated the most sophisticated doping program ever seen.
But Betsy Andreu, the wife of Armstrong’s former teammate Frankie Andreu, claims to have known the American was doping for 16 years and has had to deal with his attempts to silence her ever since.
“Lance waged a war against me and I fought back quietly and smartly,” she told the Mail on Sunday.
“Every time he said something untrue about me, it just empowered me more. The more he called me a liar, the more I was going to fight. No way was I going to let somebody lie about me.”
Betsy Andreu became friendly with Armstrong thanks to her husband, who rode with him on the Motorola and U.S. Postal Service teams at various times between 1992 and 2000.
Together with her then-fiancé, she visited Armstrong as he received treatment for testicular cancer in 1996 and the American had a conversation with two doctors while Betsy Andreu was in the room.
According to her, Armstrong admitted then that he had been taking EPO, testosterone, growth hormone, cortisone and steroids to improve his cycling.
Journalist David Walsh became aware of that incident via an off-the-record statement from Betsy Andreu in 2003. And when Armstrong got word that she had discussed it, he responded by starting an intimidation campaign that lasted years.
First he sent Frankie Andreu, who says he had also briefly used EPO at Armstrong’s urging, an email that read: “Helping to bring me down is not going to help y’alls situation. There is a direct link to all our success here, may I suggest you remind her of that.”
When Andreu’s wife refused to sign a statement in support of Armstrong and discrediting Walsh, the American began a media smear campaign against them.
Armstrong’s former physical therapist Emma O’Reilly was another who tried to expose the cyclist and was labeled a “prostitute” and an “alcoholic” by the American.
As rumors of drug use continued to swirl around Armstrong in 2008, Betsy Andreu said she was left a sinister voice mail from a friend and former business associate of Armstrong.
“I hope somebody breaks a baseball bat over your head,” it said. “I also hope that one day you have adversity in your life and you have some type of tragedy that will definitely make an impact on you.”
As usual, Betsy Andreu did not mince words in her interview with the Mail.
“The real Lance Armstrong is a bullshitter. He’s the chameleon. He will be what he wants you to see,” she said.
“If he wants you to be intimidated, he’ll be the bully; if he wants you to believe his lie, he’ll charm the hell out of you.
“He was nice to me at first. But then I wouldn’t stay quiet, and that was a problem. We knew Lance was a bully and the more money and power he got, the worse it became. He insulated himself and surrounded himself with ‘yes’ people.
“When Frankie and I spoke up, he rounded on us quickly. It was stunning — not that he did it, but that it was to one of his closest friends. I thought, “Oh my gosh, who’s going to be next?’”