Lance Armstrong bristled Tuesday at a report that two former teammates admitted using performance-enhancing drugs, calling it "a hatchet job ... to link me to doping through somebody else's admission."
Frankie Andreu and another former Armstrong teammate who requested anonymity because he still works in cycling told The New York Times they used the endurance-booster EPO to prepare for the 1999 Tour de France, when Armstrong won the first of his seven titles.
Neither rider has ever tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and both said they never saw Armstrong take any banned substances.
"I think it's a pretty nasty attempt by The New York Times to link me to doping through somebody else's admission. You have to read way down in the article until Frankie says, 'I never saw Lance do anything.'
"To me, this is a story about Frankie Andreu," Armstrong said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Los Angeles. "The fact he took drugs has nothing to do with me."
The Times first reported the story on its Web site Monday night. Armstrong could not be reached for comment by the Times because he was attending a meeting of the President's Cancer Panel in Minneapolis.
"We feel the story is completely fair. It says in the eighth paragraph his teammates never saw him take drugs, and in next paragraph, that he always denied using performance-enhancing drugs," Times sports editor Tom Jolly said.
"They are two of his former teammates. Obviously, he was the star of that team and that's their claim to fame. The story never accuses him of using drugs."
Andreu admitted taking EPO for only a few races and said he came forward now because he's worried doping is having a negative effect on the sport.
"There are two levels of guys," he told the paper. "You got the guys that cheat and guys that are just trying to survive."
Armstrong has devoted considerable time and money fighting doping allegations in the past, both during interviews and with lawsuits. He said any implication that he used performance-enhancers was "ludicrous."
"I can't prove a negative. All I can say is what I said a million times: I was tested at races, in my house, in hotel rooms, airports — you name it. I had a lot of pressure on me," he said. "My performances never did anything but get better and stronger amid all the pressure and the improved testing."