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Now running a bike shop outside of Wellington, New Zealand, Armstrong’s former assistant watched news reports about his former boss confessing to performance-enhancing drug use with only mild interest. If Anderson never hears Armstrong’s voice again, it would be too soon.
“He gave me the firm, hard push and a shove,” Anderson said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “Made my life very, very unpleasant. It was an embarrassment for me and my family to be portrayed as liars, to be called a disgruntled employee, implying there was some impropriety on my part. It just hurt. It was completely uncalled for.”
Anderson is among the dozens, maybe hundreds, of former teammates, opponents and associates to receive the Armstrong treatment, presumably for not going along with the party line — that the now-disgraced, seven-time Tour de France cyclist didn’t need to cheat to win.
The penalties for failing to play along were punitive, often humiliating, and now that Armstrong has admitted in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he’s a doper, a liar and a bully, many of those who saw their lives changed, sometime ruined, are going through a gamut of emotions.
Some feel vindicated, others remain vengeful. Some are sad, while many others are simply wrung out.
“He’s damaged a lot of people’s lives,” said Betsy Andreu, whose husband, Frankie, was culled from Armstrong’s team for not agreeing to dope. “He has damaged the sport of cycling. Frankie was fired for not getting on the program. I never thought this day would come but it’s so incredibly sad.”
Before his interview with Winfrey aired, Armstrong reached out to the Andreus to apologize but the planned reconciliation did not work. In fact, Armstrong’s interview only made things worse, when he refused to confirm what the Andreus testified to under oath — that they had heard the cyclist admit to doping while meeting with doctors treating him for cancer at an Indiana hospital in 1996.
Regardless of whether Armstrong says more about that, there’s no denying that life for the Andreus changed when they refused to go along.
And some whose careers were cut short.
Filippo Simeoni was a talented, young rider who dared admit to doping and told authorities he received his instructions from physician Michele Ferrari, who also advised Armstrong during his career. After that 2002 testimony, Armstrong branded Simeoni a liar. He went so far as to humiliate Simeoni at the 2004 Tour de France, when he chased down the Italian rider during a breakaway and more or less ordered him to fall back in line. Later in the race, and with a TV camera in his face, Armstrong put his finger to his lips in a “silence” gesture. After the stage, he said he was simply protecting the interests of the peloton.
Simeoni received a different message.
“When a rider like me brushed up against a cyclist of his caliber, his fame and his worth — when I clashed with the boss — all doors were closed to me,” Simeoni said. “I was humiliated, offended and marginalized for the rest of my career. Only I know what that feels like. It’s difficult to explain.”
Anderson certainly can.
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