The Irish woman who outed Lance Armstrong as a drugs cheat has revealed how she persuaded customs officers in Dublin not to search his team vehicles.
Emma O’Reilly worked as a massage therapist and senior aide to Armstrong at the height of his career when he won seven Tour de France titles.
The American has been stripped of his record Tour title haul after team members and aides, including O’Reilly, provided evidence of his systematic doping to the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
O’Reilly provided key evidence to USADA in their investigations into Armstrong’s doping.
Now she has said that she personally persuaded Customs officers not to search team cars for drugs as they arrived in her native Dublin for the start of the 1998 Tour de France.
In her affidavit, published by Usada, Ms O’Reilly told how she talked Irish Customs officers out of searching the team cars arriving in Dublin.
The Irish Times reports that because she was from Dublin she had travelled home to see her family before the Tour de France started in the city on July 11th, 1998.
O’Reilly arranged to meet the team off the ferry when it arrived in Dublin from Belgium days before the race started.
She said: “The ferry was scheduled to arrive at the port after midnight, so I was surprised when Customs agents showed up to meet the ferry to carry out searches of team vehicles.
“I convinced the Customs agents to leave by explaining they would have a riot on their hands if they tried to search the trucks at 2am and that any search they felt was necessary could just as easily occur in the morning.
“Later that same morning was when word of Willy Voet’s arrest started to make its way around the Tour de France.”
The paper reports that Voet was a helper with leading French team Festina who was stopped by Customs offers on the French-Belgian border and his car found to contain massive quantities of performance-enhancing drugs.
At the time Voet was on his way to catch the ferry, organised for the team cars, to bring the drugs to Ireland for the team.
The seizure of the drugs forced Festina out of the Tour de France and resulted in the biggest doping scandal to hit cycling at that time.
The 42-year-old O’Reilly now lives in Manchester and is no longer involved in cycling.
She rose to the position of ‘head soigneur’ with Armstrong’s US Postal Service Team which involved looking after the team’s massages, accommodation and meal logistics and co-ordinating other staff who acted as team helpers when the riders were competing.
O’Reilly affidavit outlines how a team vehicle for Armstrong’s US Postal Team was carrying large quantities of drugs during the 1998 Tour de France.
She said: “When the race left Ireland for France the team became concerned the police would search other team vehicles following the Festina drug seizure.
“A decision was taken to flush performance-enhancing drugs worth $25,000 down a toilet on a team bus in a field in France and to then dump the contents of the toilet into the field.
“In 1999 I transported pills from Spain to France, hand delivering them to Armstrong. I believed they were performance enhancing.”
Cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, is reviewing the Armstrong case. The UCI is led by Irishman Pat McQuaid.
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