George Hincapie admitted to doping over his workman-like career on Wednesday and confirmed, however tacitly, that he gave information against his former captain and friend, Lance Armstrong, to federal and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigators in the process.
“It is extremely difficult today to acknowledge that during a part of my career I used banned substances. Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them. I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologize to my family, teammates and fans,” Hincapie said in a statement released Wednesday morning, in conjunction with USADA CEO Travis Tygart’s letter detailing the agency’s looming report against Armstrong. Tygart also revealed the names of former Armstrong teammates that cooperated with the investigation, which included Hincapie.
“Three years ago, I was approached by U.S. federal investigators, and more recently by USADA, and asked to tell of my personal experience in these matters. I would have been much more comfortable talking only about myself, but understood that I was obligated to tell the truth about everything I knew. So that is what I did,” Hincapie said.
His admission, though widely expected, marks a significant hurdle for Armstrong’s anti-USADA campaign, in which he’s painted other riders giving information on the U.S. Postal Service doping conspiracy as cheats and liars. Hincapie is widely respected inside the peloton and out, and is the only rider to pilot Armstrong to every one of the seven Tour wins he stands to lose.
Hincapie also said that he’s competed clean for the past six years, since 2006, which dovetails with Armstrong’s retirement from the sport after winning the 2005 Tour de France.
After 19 years as a pro, Hincapie is the top American classics rider of his generation. He won Ghent-Wevelgem in 2001 and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in 2005. In 2005, he was second at Paris-Roubaix and won two stages at the Critérium du Dauphiné and a stage at the Tour, up Pla d’Adet. He’s ridden in five Olympic games. He was left off the 2012 Olympic team, along with the others named as USADA witnesses.
Hincapie, who has worked closely with young riders at the BMC Racing team and his own Hincapie Sportswear-backed development squad in recent years, believes the sport has a brighter future.
“Cycling has made remarkable gains over the past several years and can serve as a good example for other sports. Thankfully, the use of performance enhancing drugs is no longer embedded in the culture of our sport, and younger riders are not faced with the same choice we had,” he said. “I am proud to be part of the cycling community, and believe we continue to make positive changes to our sport. I applaud the extraordinary achievements of my fellow riders on and off the bike. Cycling is an incredible sport that not only requires unbelievable physical ability to ride hundreds of miles a day for many days on end; it also requires a certain type of dedication, ambition and character.”