The Women in the Lance Armstrong Doping Scandal

Betsy Andreu said she spoke out against the alleged drug use.

October 12, 2012, 11:47 PM

Oct. 13, 2012 — -- Behind the riders, the drugs and the secrets there were the women.

And they made choices, too, choices that may have set in motion the unraveling of the greatest doping scandal in the history of sport.

In 2004, Lance Armstrong's most trusted teammate George Hincapie wrote an email to the man who used to be Armstrong's closest friend on the bike circuit, Frankie Andreu.

It said: "I cannot understand how you can just sit around and let betsy try and take down the whole team."

It was a reference to Andreu's wife, Betsy, who had started doing something no one on the drug-tainted team had apparently ever done before. She started questioning what was going on and even speaking out.

"In the beginning, I was scared," said Betsy Andreu from her home in Dearborn, Mich. "But I thought this is bull and something has to be done about it. I had to get the truth out."

The U.S. Anti Doping Agency case against disgraced Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong is filled with sworn affidavits, statement after statement by riders admitting their drug use on the bike.

The case includes stories of wives being in on the scandal. Armstrong's ex-wife Kristin is said to have told people they called the blood booster EPO "butter" because they kept it with the butter in their refrigerator.

According to the USADA file: "Later at the World Championships at Valkenberg in the Netherlands the U.S. riders arrived at their tent near the start of the race to find that Armstrong had asked his wife Kristin to wrap cortisone tablets in tin foil for him and his teammates. Kristin obliged. ... One of the riders remarked 'Lance's wife is rolling joints.'"

The Andreus had been close friends with the Armstrongs, often dining together and socializing between races.

They were neighbors in Europe and spent huge amounts of time together.

Betsy Andreu grew uncomfortable as she started to hear more and more talk of drug use and says she asked Kristin Armstrong about it.

"It's a necessary evil," Armstrong's then wife said according to the case file.

But while some chose to look the other way, Armstrong's former assistant Emma O'Reilly, was bothered by her conscience too, despite having respect for what Armstrong could do as an athlete and a leader.

O'Reilly faced enormous backlash and threats when she first broke her silence to a journalist from the Sunday Times in 2003, recounting stories of purchasing makeup to cover up a bruise from injections on Armstrong and occasions where she believed she was being asked to be a drug courier for the team.

Her sworn affidavit to the USADA includes detailed anecdotes, including this one: "Lance gave me a small package wrapped in plastic. He explained that the package contained some things that he was uneasy traveling with and had not wanted to throw away at the team hotel. He then asked me if I would be willing to dispose of it for him on the way to my next destination. From Lance's explanation and the shape and feel of the package I assumed that the package contained syringes."

O'Reilly has said she never wanted to bring down Armstrong, but was bothered by what was going on and simply didn't want to lie about it.

As a result she says Armstrong sued her and, in her words, "terrorized" her.

The Women Who Put the Brakes on Lance Armstrong

But it was Betsy Andreu who never stopped pressing. When she and Frankie were closest with Armstrong and visiting him during his cancer treatment, she says Armstrong told a doctor in their presence about a number of performance enhancing drugs he'd been using.

She was enraged -- mainly at her then fiance Frankie -- and vowed not to marry him if he didn't promise that he wouldn't use drugs.

She was afraid of possible side effects and health problems with the man she planned to have children with. But she says she didn't go public with the information, telling it instead under oath after being subpoenaed to testify in a civil case Armstrong was embroiled in.

Betsy Andreu says that truth telling -- along with the pressure she put on Frankie to stop doping (he had admitted to using EPO while racing) -- cost them dearly.

She says Frankie's future in cycling was permanently damaged by the couple's steadfast determination to go up against the sport's code of silence, as foreshadowed in this email from Lance Armstrong to Frankie Andreu years earlier, now included in the USADA case file.

"By helping to bring me down is not going to help y'alls situation at all. There is a direct link to all of our success here and I suggest you remind her of that."

"It would have been nice to have company," Betsy Andreu now says. "It boggles my mind that women were OK with their husbands putting this crap in their bodies. We could have made a lot more money, but it just wasn't worth it. And I know I've never cheated anybody out of anything. I know I've always told the truth."