The director of Switzerland’s anti-doping laboratory has categorically denied accusations that he helped disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong avoid detection over the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Martial Saugy called a news conference on Friday to deal with the claim made by Travis Tygart, head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), on the US television programme "60 Minutes Sports" two days earlier.
Tygart maintained that Saugy had acknowledged giving Armstrong and his team manager Johan Bruyneel "the keys to beating EPO tests" ahead of the 2002 Tour de France, which Armstrong went on to win, although he has now been stripped of all his titles.
Saugy called the allegation “nonsense”.
He explained that he did indeed meet Armstrong, Bruyneel and the doctor of the International Cycling Union (ICU) in Luxembourg in 2002 just before the start of the Tour.
The meeting was requested by the ICU; it was a “normal” thing, aimed at creating a climate of transparency.
Armstrong and other riders had a right to information about false positives in EPO tests, which were relatively new at the time, Saugy explained. Armstrong’s results after the 2001 had been “conspicuous”.
He discussed this meeting with Tygart in 2010, soon after US federal investigators started looking into the Armstrong case. But he said he and Tygart had "different memories" of their discussion and Tygart had misinterpreted a nod he gave to one of his questions.
Saugy repeated his respect for Tygart, whose determination to investigate Armstrong was crucial to his unmasking last year as a drugs cheat.
Armstrong, a seven-time winner of the Tour de France, had strenuously denied accusations of doping made against him over the years. It was only when the USADA issued its report that he was banned from cycling for life.
He is due to give his first television interview on the matter to Oprah Winfrey next week.
swissinfo.ch and agencies