Sigh of relief for race sponsor Amgen: Drugs Lance Armstrong accused of using made by competing company.
The Amgen Tour of California bicycle race was rocked Thursday by accusations from 2006 winner Floyd Landis that he, and three prominent riders in this week's event, cheated
using synthetic erythropoietin (EPO
). One of the riders fingered by Landis was seven-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong. More than a little awkwardly, the drug -- the doping agent of choice for cyclists -- happens to be race-backer Amgen's main product.
Floyd Landis, the American cyclist whose 2006 Tour de France victory was nullified after a positive doping test, has sent a series of emails to cycling officials and sponsors admitting to, and detailing, his systematic use of performance enhancing drugs during his career. The emails also claim that other riders and cycling officials allegedly participated in doping, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong
The scandal could have been worse, however, for SoCal biotech giant Amgen, and and race owner AEG, a holding of San Francisco Examiner
owner Phil Anschutz.
For one, the accusations come from a troubled source: Landis was disqualified from the 2006 Tour de France for testosterone use. (He retained his 2006 Tour of California title, however, as he didn't test positive during the race.)
Better news yet for corporate sponsor Amgen: It turns out the erythropoietin Landis claims he got from former teammate Armstrong was made by Amgen competitor Johnson & Johnson.
I was instructed to go to Lance's place by Johan Bruyneel and get some EPO from him," read the e-mail, which [USA Cycling chief executive officer Steve] Johnson forwarded to United States Anti-Doping Agency officials on May 1. "The first EPO I ever used was then handed to me in the entry way to his building in full view of his then wife. "It was Eprex by brand and it came in six pre measured syringes," it continued. "I used it intravenously for several weeks before the next blood draw and had no problems with the tests during the Vuelta."
That's J&J product Eprex
and not Epogen or Aranesp.
Those are the brand names of Amgen's versions of erythropoietin, an anti-anemia drug that has been the greatest culprit in cycling's recent-years doping scandals.
Armstrong, for his part, said in a Thursday morning press conference that he had nothing to hide, and that his credibility was better than Landis'.Floyd Landis Photo | Michael David MurphyFollow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly