Lance Assistant Tells All in ‘Outside’
Armstrong's former assistant Mike Anderson recounts his two years with the cyclist, whom he characterizes as a man frequently motivated by "a combination of self-interest and spite."
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As a new book by cyclist Tyler Hamilton accusing Lance Armstrong of supplying him with performance-enhancing drugs hits stores, former Armstrong personal assistant Mike Anderson has written a 5,700-word tell-all for Outside Online.
“A months-in-the-making, many-lawyers-and-fact-checkers-involved Armstrong expose,” tweeted Outside Digital Editorial Director Nicholas Jackson.
Anderson worked for the seven-time Tour De France champion (who was officially stripped of that designation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency last week) from November 2002 to November 2004.
Some of his story has been told before, both in a 2005 lawsuit and countersuit between the two men at the end of their professional relationship (it was settled confidentially) and as one of the people mentioned in Sports Illustrated‘s 2011 Armstrong cover story.
The story is less about new revelations as it is Anderson’s memories and feelings about Armstrong as a person. They aren’t warm.
“Do I think he cheated?” Anderson writes in the story’s introductory subhead. “Yep. But my real problem is something that diehard fans seem unable to grasp: the vengeful tactics he uses against people who tell the truth about him, on and off the bike.”
It’s just one man’s opinion, and the proverbial disgruntled employee at that, but Anderson’s still might be the most controversial position of all: that regardless of whether Armstrong cheated and regardless of how much good work Livestrong has done, Armstrong isn’t a good guy:
The standard Armstrong defense starts with the naive assumption that it’s impossible to beat drug tests and usually rounds out like this: Even if Armstrong did cheat, he’s a person who came along when drugs were endemic to the sport of bike racing, and he got sucked into using them like many others did. But that era is behind us, so we should let it drop and move on, celebrating Armstrong for the good work he does as a cancer philanthropist. “Yes, Lance has 2B stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles now,” ESPN columnist Rick Reilly wrote in his Twitter feed. “Still, to millions, his work for cancer victims alone makes him a champion.”
“Lance Armstrong is a good man,” Sally Jenkins (co-author of It’s Not About the Bike) declared in a Washington Post column that took dead aim at USADA. “There’s nothing that I can learn about him short of murder that would alter my opinion on that.”
I might be sympathetic if I hadn’t worked for Armstrong, hadn’t seen him act so often based on a combination of self-interest and spite. Many of the episodes I discuss in what follows—including what I observed on the doping front—have been aired before, in depositions taken during the lawsuits. Some haven’t been heard anywhere, including the statements I made last year to Jeff Novitzky during the FDA investigator’s failed attempt to take Armstrong to federal court.
I’m telling my story now because millions of people still look up to Armstrong as a role model. That’s their choice, and I think it’s possible he can emerge from the wreckage and continue his second career as a fundraiser for cancer awareness. But he needs to come clean at this point, and the people who support him need to understand that he isn’t and never has been a victim.
It’s a personal story, dating back to when Anderson first met Armstrong in Dallas when both of them were seventeen to his heady stint as an assistant (“I had Tiger’s number. I had Bono’s number”) to their falling out.
Among the dishy moments:
• The end of Amstrong’s marriage to Anderson’s first wife, Kristen, who he says used to jokingly call him “H2”—for “husband two:”
Clearly, he wanted his marriage to be over. But he showed no emotion, and the way he handled it—dropping the bomb and then leaving Kristin alone on the beach—seemed abrupt and cruel. She was devastated, and over the next few months I watched her shrink from a confident, healthy woman to someone who was frantic and depressed, which was heartbreaking.
Justifying himself, Armstrong later told me he’d read an email between Kristin and the owner of a local running-shoe store that led him to suspect her of infidelity, which I found hard to believe. At the same time, he told me he didn’t want “to live a lie anymore.”
• Anderson says that Armstrong used to bring back lots of undeclared cash with him after every European trip:
“That’s where I saw indications for the first time—which I discussed over the phone in an interview with [federal investigator] Jeff Novitzky—that Armstrong might be dishonest in ways that mattered.
• Anderson once told Armstrong that he thought he was partying too much in Austin bars.
• And, the smoking gun. First, Anderson recalled a conversation about a doping scandal involving Belgian cyclist Johann Museeuw:
I asked Armstrong whether he thought any of the cheating allegations were true. “Everyone does it,” he said nonchalantly, looking me straight in the eyes. That floored me. I didn’t say anything else, but the implication was clear enough.
• Then, when he was helping clean Armstrong’s Spain apartment of Kristin’s things to make way for Sheryl Crow:
In the middle of this purge, I found a prescription box in the medicine cabinet—to the side of the vanity in the bathroom—that sent everything spiraling. I knew what it was. Not exactly at first, but I sensed from my rudimentary knowledge of medicine that this box shouldn’t be in the bathroom of a professional cyclist.
The label said Androstenedione. I looked it up on a laptop computer Armstrong had given me months before. I was searching for valid reasons why he would have this substance, a banned steroid. There were none. I put it back and did my best to forget about it. But I was torn. Should I risk alienating Armstrong and losing my job by calling him out?
I didn’t say anything, but I was so rattled that Allison noticed, despite me not saying a word to her about what I’d seen. The day after Armstrong arrived in Girona, I sneaked another look at the medicine cabinet and saw that the box was gone. In short order, Armstrong started behaving very differently with me. There was no longer any of the kidding around I was accustomed to. He was all business and would remain that way from then on. I think he knew what I knew, and he knew I didn’t approve.
Anderson has also accused Armstrong of deliberately evading a World Anti-Doping Agency “whereabouts” check in 2004 (something two other wintesses later denied in sworn testimonty).
As Anderson himself notes in the story, Armstrong’s spokespeople and lawyers have a document called “Anderson’s Complete Lack of Credibility,” which Outside also posted.
Last year, Neal Rogers of Velo News wrote that Armstrong’s representatives says “Anderson never observed Armstrong commit an illegal act, was never requested to perform an illegal act, and never observed Armstrong ingest any prohibited substance.”
Bizarrely (and irrelevantly?) “the document also states that in 2004, Armstrong received emails from Anderson signed ‘Andersatan’ and ‘666.’”