"They began to ask him some questions, banal questions," testified Betsy Andreu, the wife of a former Armstrong teammate. "And all of a sudden, boom, 'Have you ever done any performance-enhancing drugs?' And he said, 'Yes.'
"And they asked, 'What were they?' And Lance said, 'EPO, growth hormone, cortisone, steroid, testosterone.' "
Andreu's testimony, along with much more that raises questions about Armstrong's performance, can be found in thousands of pages of documents sparked by confidential litigation between the world's most famous cyclist and a company that was withholding a $5-million bonus he claimed after winning the 2004 Tour de France. The Times reviewed transcripts of depositions and hearings in the matter — all the testimony delivered under oath — along with a number of exhibits.
Armstrong testified, "The story is not true."
And on Friday, he reacted with anger to publication of portions of Andreu's testimony in the French newspaper Le Monde.
"The latest story, which alleges an admission of using performance-enhancing drugs in a hospital in 1996, is today as absurd and untrue as when it was first circulated years ago," Armstrong said in a statement. "It never happened."
In a settlement dated Feb. 8 of this year that was reached before the three-person arbitration panel made a ruling, Dallas-based SCA Promotions paid Armstrong and bike racing company Tailwind Sports $7.5 million — the $5-million bonus plus interest and lawyers' fees.
Armstrong's statement referred to the settlement, saying, "It's over. We won. They lost. I was yet again completely vindicated."
While the "final arbitration award" notes that the arbitrators signed after "having considered the evidence and testimony," the panel produced no findings of fact. Bob Hamman, SCA's president and chief executive, said in a telephone interview, "The panel did not rule on the case."
In October 1996, nearly three years before he won the Tour de France for the first of his record seven times, Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his brain.
About three weeks later, he was operated on in Indianapolis, at Indiana University Medical Center.
According to Betsy Andreu's testimony, a group of well-wishers came to see Armstrong in the hospital on Oct. 27, the Sunday after the operation: her; her husband; Stephanie McIlvain, Armstrong's contact at a longtime sponsor, Oakley, the sunglasses company; Chris Carmichael, Armstrong's coach; Carmichael's then-girlfriend, now his wife, Paige; and Armstrong's then-girlfriend, Lisa Shiels.
A Dallas Cowboys game was on TV, according to testimony. It was there and then, Andreu testified in her deposition and during a closed-door hearing before three arbitrators, that doctors arrived, asked Armstrong if he had taken performance-enhancing drugs and he recited that list: EPO, growth hormone, cortisone, steroids and testosterone — all substances regulated by sports and medical authorities.
"Are you absolutely certain that's what he said?" she was asked.
"Yeah, I'm positive," she testified.
Andreu's husband, Frankie, testified, "I don't know how the doctor phrased the question, but Lance's response was that he had taken EPO and testosterone and growth hormone and cortisone."
At the time, Armstrong's best finish in the Tour de France was 36th, in 1995. He had been an Olympian in 1992 and 1996 and, in 1993, was, at age 21, one of the youngest winners of the World Road Championship.
Frankie Andreu would go on to ride with Armstrong in the first two of Armstrong's Tour victories, 1999 and 2000.