US cyclist Hamilton recalls "delinquent" doping days

"We were fully delinquents, if not criminals. If there was one product that we could almost not do without, it was EPO."

So says former US pro-racer Tyler Hamilton, one-time US Postal teammate of Lance Armstrong and likewise caught up in the doping scandals which have wracked the sport.

Hamilton won 2004 Olympic Gold but his doping saw him stripped of the title last year and he is now coming to terms with a past he has recanted.

In his book "The Secret Race", whose French version is being released in France this week, Hamilton explained in detail how riders would take performance-enhancing drug EPO on the Tour de France from a delivery man hiding among fans.

"He spent two and a half weeks on the road, kind of camping out most of the time, staying close by, waiting for the call or the text message."

In an interview with AFPTV, Hamilton insisted it was Armstrong who ensured the doping was kept under wraps.

Hamilton said the message was: "This river is going this way. Don't try to swim up stream. You'd better swim the same way Lance Armstrong is swimming or -- if not, watch your back.

"There is the omerta, the code of silence. You don't talk. You don't, you don't, you just don't go that way, you don't go there. If you do, your career is over."

Armstrong has since confessed to being a drug cheat, but has not admitted to playing a role in other riders' doping.

Hamilton opened up on the issue in mid-2011, a year after disgraced former Tour de France champion Floyd Landis came clean on his own doping misdemeanours.

He told the US doping agency USADA what he knew and then wrote his book, shedding light on Armstrong, who had been a team mate on three of the latter's seven Tour de France wins between, those three coming between 1999 and 2001.

The 42-year-old now puts together training programmes for amateur cyclists.

Armstrong meanwhile faces lawsuits spawned by his admission to chat host Oprah Winfrey in January that he had doped and that all seven of his Tour de France victories were fuelled by banned drugs.

Last October, Armstrong was stripped of his Tour titles as well as all other results from August 1998 and banned for life after USADA determined he was the key figure in a sophisticated doping programme on his US Postal Service team.

He told Winfrey he used a combination of blood-doping transfusions, blood-boosting EPO and testosterone throughout his career.

Hamilton and Armstrong had earlier had an angry exchange at a restaurant in Aspen when the latter hit out at Hamilton for his allegations, only ultimately to admit publicly his wrongdoing.

Armstrong's confession to Winfrey "came as a surprise to Hamilton - but he saw it in a positive light.

"A big Tour de France champion is admitting to cheating. But it's the truth, it's the reality. I think the sport will gain a lot from it in the future."

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