This is a pretty damning allegation against Armstrong, one that got lost earlier this week in all the hoopla over a damning USADA report and his being declared sponsora non grata. You might even be tempted to wonder if it's just piling on, at a time when it's cool to bash Armstrong. But the actual claims date from years ago, and only emerged this week.
New Zealand cyclist Stephen Swart gave a sworn deposition in 2006, in a lawsuit brought by Armstrong against an insurance company he accused of refusing to pay him a bonus for winning his sixth Tour de France. Swart story was that in 1993, Armstrong offered him $50,000 if he would back off, and let Armstrong win a pair of races for a $1 million prize.
Armstrong was with the Motorola team when he took on the Thrift Drug Triple Crown of Cycling, three races with a bonus of a cool million for anyone who could win them all. It had never been done before, but Armstrong, in his first full season as a professional, won the first race in Pittsburgh. He was leading the second race, in West Virginia, when he was made an offer he couldn't refuse.
Australian Brodcasting Corporation's Four Corners obtained Swart's deposition:
In his sworn deposition, Swart said that "prior to its finish, we were approached to, to obviously help them, well basically not help them, but to not attack them".
When asked whether this meant "to, in effect, allow him to - to continue to win?", Swart answered: "Yes."
Swart, who was then riding with the Coors team, said the initial approach was made by a member of Armstrong's Motorola team to another team-mate on the Coors team, and together, the two men met with Armstrong and Anderson in the hotel room shared by Armstrong and Anderson.
There, the offer of $50,000 was made, "if we didn't be aggressive and challenge for the rest of the race and obviously for the final race in Philadelphia".
When asked: "So, in effect, is it fair to say that you were offered money to not challenge Mr Armstrong, to allow him to win?" Swart replied: "That's correct."
Swart confirmed Armstrong was present when this conversation took place.
When asked: "Did he actually make the offer?", Swart replied: "I think it was - coincided with Phil's agreement, yes."
Swart said the riders agreed to keep it quiet. When asked why, he replied: "Well, it's not a - it's not ethical if you look in the sporting arena, is it?"
Swart had actually told the same story in 2004, in a sworn affidavit that wasn't made public until this week. The allegations were the same—$50,000 to let Armstrong win the final two races of the triple crown. He won in West Virginia, went on to win in Philadelphia, and Swart says he received his $50,000. (He adds that Armstrong would have won anyway.)
It must be noted that Swart is the only source for these claims, and Armstrong has denied them. But other allegations from Swart were included in USADA's report on Armstrong. The two were teammates in 1994 and 1995, and Swart says that Armstrong was the instigator and ringleader of the team's EPO doping scheme. (His affidavit for USADA can be found here.)