UCI dope-tests the movie actor playing Lance Armstrong.
Yesterday in Hollywood, California actor Ben Frazier received a unexpected visit: an anti-doping official from the UCI, the governing body of professional cycling.
Frazier is set to play Armstrong in the film based on David Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, directed by Steven Brears.
According to Frazier, the official knocked on his apartment door at 6:30 am to take a blood and urine sample. “That was crazy, I mean way crazy,” said Frazier. “I’ve been training hard on the bike to get ready for the film but I’m clean all the way.”
While Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after admitting he used banned substances such as EPO, testosterone and human growth hormone, Frazier is simply playing Armstrong — a fact he’d like people to keep in mind.
“Like any good actor I like to get into character, you know? But it would be pretty bizarre of me to take EPO. I just pretend to climb those big mountains,” said Frazier. I don’t need an illegal edge just to beat the other actors in the film who are riding against me.”
While acknowledging that the test on Frazier was unprecedented, the UCI nevertheless stands by its decision. “We have to protect the image of professional cycling in the post-Armstrong era,” said Klaus Verbier, a UCI spokesman. “We know how these method actors work — he wants to not just act like Armstrong but become Armstrong. We’re watching him very closely.”
Lawyers for the Screen Actors Guild are investigating where the UCI has any right or jurisdiction to test Frazier. “We think this is clearly a case of overstepping the boundaries,” said Eric Swelden, a Guild attorney. “Frazier is pretending to be Armstrong during his years of doping, but pretend doesn’t mean you can demand a blood sample.”
Pressed for clarification, the UCI’s Verbier insisted that the testing would go forward. “They want to make this film as real as possible — it’s a story about Armstrong and doping — so we can and will test for the entire duration of the filming schedule and perhaps even into the editing process,” said Verbier.
The full ramifications of the UCI testing the actors in the Armstrong movie remain to be seen. Already there are grave concerns from the director of the film, Steven Brears. “Are they going to dope-test the actor playing Ullrich and Basso and Hamilton, too? I can’t have the UCI disrupting my set every week,” said Brears. “There’s a lot of drugs in Hollywood but nobody is doing EPO. That’s just stupid.”
For Frazier, it’s simply another challenge in playing the role of the most disgraced pro cyclist in history. “Now I know how Lance felt. I mean, that UCI guy started yelling to me about this whereabouts program and how I have to tell the UCI where I am all the time, ” said Frazier. I mean, that’s crazy stuff.”