Old friends: Hincapie and Armstrong. Getty images

Armstrong team-mate Hincapie admits to doping, apologises

The American was the only rider to assist the ‘seven-time Tour de France winner’ in all of his victories in cycling’s most prestigious race.

AMERICAN CYCLIST George Hincapie has admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs during a career that spanned 17 years.

Hincapie, a former team-mate of Lance Armstrong on the US Postal Service team, was the only rider to assist the seven-time Tour de France winner in all of his victories in cycling’s most prestigious race.

The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) stripped Armstrong of those titles and imposed a life ban on him in August for his part in an alleged systematic doping scandal. Hincapie, 39, also played a leading role in helping Alberto Contador (2007) and Cadel Evans (2011) to victory at the Tour de France.

“Because of my love for the sport, the contributions I feel I have made to it, and the amount the sport of cycling has given to me over the years, it is extremely difficult today to acknowledge that during a part of my career I used banned substances,” Hincapie said in a statement.

“Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them.  I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologise to my family, team-mates and fans.”

Hincapie said he had since been clean and not used any performance-enhancing substances since 2006. ”During this time, I continued to successfully compete at the highest level of cycling while mentoring young professional riders on the right choices to make to ensure that the culture of cycling had changed,” he said.

“About two years ago, I was approached by US Federal investigators, and more recently by USADA, and asked to tell of my personal experience in these matters. I would have been much more comfortable talking only about myself, but understood that I was obligated to tell the truth about everything I knew. So that is what I did.”

Hincapie’s comments come in the wake of USADA’s overwhelming evidence against Armstrong. USADA accused Armstrong of being part of the ‘most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program’ in sports history. USADA also revealed 11 of Armstrong’s former team-mates testified against him, including Michael Barry.

The Canadian rider, who announced he would retire from the sport in September after two years with Team Sky, said he was pressured into using banned substances during his time at the US Postal Service team.

“After being encouraged by the team, pressured to perform and pushed to my physical limits I crossed a line I promised myself and others I would not: I doped,” he said. ”It caused me sleepless nights, took the fun out of cycling and racing, and tainted the success I achieved at the time. This was not how I wanted to live or race.

“I apologise to those I deceived. I will accept my suspension and any other consequences. I will work hard to regain people’s trust.”

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