Actovegin, they said at the time, was used to treat skin burns. Corticoid cream was magnificent for the perineum. And the busy roads of the Costa Brava were better suited for training than France. The public lies were, during the Armstrong era, a basic part of the system. Actovegin, a medicine based on blood extracted from calves, was injected into members of the US Postal Service team by Luis García del Moral “to oxygenate the muscles.” The perineum excuse served to get through a positive test for corticoids at the 1999 Tour after an injection of Kenacort prescribed by Del Moral.
Lance Armstrong moved to Girona from Nice because he was concerned in the aftermath of the Festina doping case in France, and because he believed that doping was safer in Spain. It was there that Armstrong’s Spanish connection began. These claims can be read in the testimony of former teammates, who figure in the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report that calls for a lifetime ban for the rider and that he be stripped of his seven Tour wins.
Del Moral is from Valencia, as is Pepe Martí, who according to witnesses was so scared of going to France laden with EPO and other substances for Armstrong that the Texan felt obliged to move to Spain. He chose Girona because there was a network of American riders and Johnny Weltz, the first team director of US Postal, lived there. Another resident of Valencia, the former ONCE rider Johan Bruyneel, codirected and provided some of the logistics for Armstrong’s doping system, according to the USADA report.
The testimony of Jonathan Vaughters, now team director of Garmin and a former teammate of Armstrong’s, sheds the most light on the Valencia link: “One day, in August 1999, I was talking with Bruyneel and said that other cyclists were saying that Armstrong was so good he must be using doping products from NASA. Bruyneel laughed and said ‘if they only knew that they were using the same products I knew at ONCE...’”
He chose Girona because there was a network of American riders and the US Postal director lived there
Vaughters joined US Postal in 1998, before Bruyneel, Martí and Del Moral’s time. The team doctor then was Pedro Celaya, who Vaughters says injected him with EPO and described its effects. Other former teammates claim that Celaya was a kind of fireman, there to troubleshoot as each rider got to grips with his own doping works, including sometimes doctors who were not on the team’s payroll. Vaughters, the same sources said, was one of the most dangerous team members, with a broad knowledge of substances and biochemistry.
On Del Moral — who replaced Celaya because, Vaughters says, he was not as convinced by doping as Armstrong wanted him to be — the Garmin team director has few kind words. He describes him being irascible and rude and states that he arrived at the team loaded down with syringes and Excel spreadsheets with doping plans and hematocrit data.
The presence of syringes was described to USADA by David Zabriskie, another former teammate of Armstrong: “You’d walk into his room and in a second you’d have a needle in your arm or your stomach,” he joked. He also tells of how EPO was delivered in vials when Celaya was the team doctor but under Del Moral, who was nicknamed “The Cat,” the drug would arrive in pre-filled syringes. Martí, he says, acted as an assistant in blood transfusions and in transporting dangerous products.
Although Vaughters blew the whistle on Del Moral and the doping system, he still routinely sent Garmin racers to the doctor for medical reviews, his former charge Trent Lowe said.
Celaya was team doctor at Radioshack until the beginning of this season. Del Moral left US Postal in 2003 and worked as an assessor for the ephemeral FC Barcelona cycling team. Martí worked as a trainer with Bruyneel at Discovery and Astana until 2009, then became Alberto Contador’s personal trainer, following the Spaniard to Saxo Bank in 2011.