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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lance Armstrong Doping Story Points Toward S.F. Company

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2011 at 7:54 AM

Page 2 of 3

According to Hamilton, he was actually drawn into the world of illicit syringes, droppers, and pills before Armstrong was even recruited to ride for the U.S. Postal Service, which sponsored a cycling team between 1996 and 2004. Hamilton joined the same team in 1995, when it was called Montgomery-Bell. It was owned by Weisel, and was named after Weisel-founded Montgomery Securities, and sponsor Bell helmets.

Sunday night, CBS reported:

Hamilton told us that doping was happening on the U.S. Postal Service
team before Armstrong joined. The best riders got special treatment.

"I remember seeing some of the stronger guys in the team getting handed
these white lunch bags," Hamilton said. "So finally I, you know,
started puttin' two and two together and you know, basically there were
doping products in those white lunch bags.

You weren't getting one in the beginning?" reporter Scott Pelley asked.

"No," Hamilton said.

He eventually did get a lunch bag.

In 1995, the year Hamilton signed up for Weisel's team, the San Francisco investment banker was frustrated with what had become an expensive hobby, according "Capital Instinctst: Life as an Entrepreneur, Financier and Athlete," a 2003 Weisel autobiography cowritten with technology journalist Richard Brandt. At the time Hamilton joined Montgomery Bell, Weisel "had poured about $5 million of his own money into the team since its inception, with little to show for it."

The next year, however, the Weisel-owned team procured sponsorship from the United States Postal Service. And in 1998, the team recruited Lance Armstrong.

According to the autobiography, "Weisel sought out and hired riders with all the different skills necessary to support Armstrong and help him win the Tour."

But Hamilton said key riders were favored even before Weisel's team signed Armstrong. During the 60 Minutes episode, Pelley pressed Hamilton on details of the purported pre-Armstrong-era "lunch bags" handed to the team's favored riders.

"And inside the bag was what?" Pelley asked.

"In my lunch bag I got EPO. You know, other guys got other things such as growth hormone. I mean, it's sad to say it, I was kinda willing and accepting of the lunch bag, but you know, in a way it was also an honor that, 'Wow, like, they think I'm good enough to be with the 'A' team guys"
Hamilton is alleging here that a systematic doping program was in place at the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team before Armstrong had anything to do with that team. That's crucial because, beginning in 2002, sponsorship contracts between the U.S. government agency and Tailwind Sports, the company Weisel set up to manage the team, included a clause allowing the USPS to shut off its multi-million dollar sponsorship spigot if ever it was learned management had condoned riders' doping.

This brings us to the mysterious, year-old federal investigation spearheaded by Barry Bonds' foe, and USDA investigator, Jeff Novitzky.

UP NEXT: What crimes may have been committed.
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