SALVO, North Carolina (Reuters) - Despite unparalleled success as a cyclist, Lance Armstrong could never shed allegations he was a drug cheat.
Rumors spread for years that the seven times Tour de France winner who retired on Wednesday used performance-enhancing drugs to fuel his brilliant career.
Armstrong, a cancer survivor who has never failed a doping test, vehemently has denied the allegations.
Yet as he turns his attention to his campaign against cancer, Armstrong finds himself the subject of numerous allegations of doping and a federal investigation.
Former team mate and deposed Tour de France winner Floyd Landis last May accused Armstrong not only of using performance-enhancing drugs but teaching others how to avoid being caught.
Landis said he witnessed some of his team mates, including Armstrong, use illegal drugs, including once on a team bus during a race, to boost performance and endurance.
Landis also said Armstrong flew on charter flights that landed at private airports with less stringent customs checks, Sports Illustrated magazine reported.
“Lance had a (travel) bag full of drugs and s***,” Landis was quoted as saying.
The wife of one-time Armstrong team mate Frankie Andreu said Armstrong also had admitted to using illegal drugs.
In a sworn deposition, Betsy Andreu said Armstrong, when asked by doctors at Indiana University Medical Center whether he had used performance-enhancing drugs, the cyclist replied yes and listed EPO, growth hormone, cortisone, steroids and testosterone, Sports Illustrated reported in a recent article.
Armstrong also has had ties to controversial Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, who has publicly defended the use of EPO but has denied helping athletes enhance performance through doping.
More recently, a U.S. federal grand jury in Los Angeles has for months been hearing testimony from former team mates and associates into whether Armstrong participated in doping as a member of the U.S. Postal Service team during his most prominent Tour de France days.
Jeff Novitzky, a key federal investigator in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) doping scandal of the early 2000s, is spearheading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) also is conducting an investigation into doping in the sport of cycling.
USADA would not comment on the specifics of the investigation, which was opened last May at the request of the U.S. and international federations.
USADA said it has tested Armstrong 27 times since 2001, adding that the totals do not include tests done by international organizations.
Earlier accusations that the American had used EPO during the 1999 Tour de France led to a 2006 investigation supported by the International Cycling Union (UCI) that cleared Armstrong of doping.
The investigation followed allegations published by the French newspaper L’Equipe that six of his urine samples from the 1999 Tour showed traces of EPO.
“I never lose sleep... ever,” Armstrong said last month of the U.S. federal investigation. “It has no effect on my life — zero. That’s for other people to deal with.
“I have five kids to raise, a foundation (for cancer research) to run. I still have, theoretically, a job and I don’t let it affect me.”
Editing by Steve Ginsburg