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Thor Hushovd has confirmed that he knew about Lance Armstrong’s doping in 2011, with the Norwegian saying that Armstrong told him then that he had used banned products during his career.
The rider made the statement in his new autobiography Thor, which has initially been released in Norwegian but which is expected to be published in English at a later date. Quotes from it have been printed by a number of Scandinavian media outlets including NRK.no.
Hushovd was friends with Armstrong for several years, and at times appeared critical of the investigation into him. He was asked by VG.no in 2012 if he believed the rider doped, and declined to answer. “I cannot comment on that,” he said then.
However, according to Hushovd himself, he already knew that the Texan had used banned substances by that point.
He said that he was invited to Hollywood by Armstrong after the 2011 Tour of California. The latter’s former US Postal Service team-mate Tyler Hamilton had just spoken out about Armstrong’s doping; Hushovd said that at that point, Armstrong spontaneously admitted it to him. “We all did it,” he said.
Given that he was aware of the rider’s guilt, he accepts that his subsequent quotes on the subject to journalists were misleading. “Many would probably say I almost defended Lance with my evasive answers,” he writes. “So be it. I did not need to judge him. Why should I jump on the wave and crucify Lance because the circumstances and the media expected it?”
Hushovd was however critical of Floyd Landis, who tested positive during the 2006 Tour de France and who spoke at an anti-doping conference around the time that the Norwegian won his world title. “He is certainly free to come to a world championship city, but he has no place in an anti-doping conference,” he told TV 2 Sport then. “When you have managed to lie for so many years and spent lots of money in the system, then he has lost my confidence, and probably that of many others too. Then it is the wrong person to get to work on anti-doping issues.”
He finally became publicly critical of Armstrong after the Texan admitted usage of EPO and other substances to Oprah Winfrey in January 2013. He said that the Texan sent him an SMS in response. “Do you really think I’m the only one who cheats out there?” he reports Armstrong as saying. “How stupid is it possible to be?”
According to Hushovd, he never doped himself. He said that he never made this clear to Armstrong and that the American likely believes otherwise, but he is adamant he had nothing to hide.
“I understand that it can be hard for people to believe that after such a long period in the sport that I was never offered any kind of doping,” he insists. “But it’s true. No-one has ever come to me and asked if I would try. With my hand on my heart I can say that I have never been tempted.”
However his current position on what he witnessed during his time as a pro contrasts with what he said in October 2010. “I have never seen drugs in the cycling scene, and never in the evenings in the urban environment,” he told NRK Sport then.
Four years on from that, he paints a different story, although it is unclear when one incident he describes happened. He said that there were occasions when he saw suspicious things. “Like when I was going to meet a friend,” he writes. “He rode for another team, but I knew what hotel he was staying in and I burst into the room without knocking.
“There sat one of his team-mates with a syringe in his arm and five other riders on the bed as spectators. I turned on my heel and walked right back out. It looked really freaky.”
The Cycling Independent Reform Commission is currently looking into the sport’s past, and specifically into the claims that the previous regimes at the UCI helped Armstrong evade detection for many years. The final outcome of that is not expected for several more months, but Hushovd personally believes that wrongdoing likely occurred in this regard.
“Look at the Armstrong case,” he said. “He was the sport’s big superstar and the golden calf. The UCI would have lost a lot if Armstrong was revealed as a cheater. I think the positive samples were hidden to save Armstrong and to protect the sport.”
Hushovd took a large number of victories during his career in the sport, including ten Tour de France stages and the 2010 world road race championship.