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Video: Teammate: Lance Armstrong failed drug tests

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TODAY contributor
updated 9/5/2012 9:48:19 AM ET 2012-09-05T13:48:19

A former cycling teammate of Lance Armstrong said he is not surprised Armstrong continues to deny doping allegations, because he used to do the same thing.

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When questioned about cheating, “I denied it for years,’’ Tyler Hamilton told Matt Lauer on Wednesday. “After a while you get pretty good at it. I’ve lied to you before, straight to your face. For me, it’s a huge weight off my back. Today I feel fantastic.’’

Hamilton appeared on TODAY alongside Daniel Coyle, his co-author on the new book “The Secret Race – Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs.’’ The book comes out shortly after Armstrong’s Aug. 23 announcement that he will no longer fight charges of performance-enhancing drug use by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which led to the USADA erasing his seven Tour de France titles from the record books and banning him from the sport for life.

Armstrong maintains that he never used PEDs and became weary of battling the USADA.

‘I lied for a long, long time’
Hamilton was a teammate of Armstrong’s on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team from 1998 to 2001. He tested positive for PEDs three times in his career, which has brought his credibility under attack by Armstrong and others. Armstrong is labeling Hamilton an opportunist, pointing to the fact that the book is coming out shortly after Armstrong’s announcement even though the allegations in it are more than 10 years old.

Video: Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace

“Tyler Hamilton was a teammate of Lance’s more than a decade ago,’’ Armstrong said in a statement. “Writing a book today about events that allegedly took place more than ten years ago is not about setting the record straight or righting a wrong; it is greedy, opportunistic and self-serving.’’

“This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,’’ Hamilton told Lauer Wednesday. “I lied for a long, long time. There was sort of an omerta. People really encouraged me not to speak. I planned to take this secret to the grave. There was a federal investigation, and I sat up there in front of the grand jury and told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’’

Video: Teammate: Lance Armstrong failed drug tests (on this page)

In light of the fact that Hamilton admits he lied in the past, Coyle demanded certain assurances before he co-wrote the book in order to ensure its accuracy.

“No subject was off limits, I had access to all of (Hamilton’s) materials and everything would be independently confirmed,’’ Coyle told Lauer. “I spent two years talking to former teammates, wives, girlfriends, and staffers, so this thing rests on a foundation of independent reporting.’’

Claims of cover-up
Armstrong was tested more than 500 times in his career, but claims he never tested positive.

Video: Armstrong to be stripped of Tour titles

“First of all, I passed hundreds of tests when I probably shouldn’t have,’’ Hamilton said. “The United States doping association, they’ve been doing a fantastic job in improving their tests, but back in the day at the time I was riding, we had doctors that were one step ahead of the testers.’’

Hamilton also disputes Armstrong’s claim that he never tested positive, saying that Armstrong confided to Hamilton in 2001 that he failed a doping test before the Tour de Suisse in Switzerland. Hamilton alleges that there was then a cover-up of the results by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), cycling’s international governing body. The UCI has denied that there was any cover-up.

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“What happened next was a call was made from cycling’s body, UCI, that this test should go no further, this matter should end here,’’ Coyle said. “There was a meeting between Armstrong, his coach and the lab and then there was also a $125,000 donation from Armstrong to the UCI.’’

Hamilton does not have any physical proof that Armstrong was cheating, although the book details instances of Hamilton being with Armstrong when Armstrong allegedly had vials of EPO, a blood-doping agent, in his refrigerator. Hamilton also writes about how EPO was allegedly delivered to them during races.

Story: ‘The Secret Race’ explores doping in professional cycling

“We have 300 pages of a smoking gun — an avalanche of evidence,’’ Coyle said. “People have a right to know the truth about this. He’s an icon for millions of people, and he’s an icon because he inspired people through his winning. Now there’s some truth coming out about exactly how he won. Now people can make up their own minds.’’

Hamilton still calls Armstrong “one of the best athletes I’ve ever met,’’ and feels that his book has credibility despite his admission of lying in the past.

“It’s the truth,’’ Hamilton said. “I denied for such a long time. There are other people still denying. It’s hard to come to terms with it, to tell the truth. For me, telling my parents for the first time, my friends, it was just brutal.’’

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