While most all of the US postal riders on Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France teams have testified they saw or had knowledge of his doping practices, a few stalwarts have kept their yaps shut to the bitter end.
Call them the Omerta All-Stars. Let’s hand out dirty chapeaux to long time Armstrong pal and climber Kevin Livingston, hard-man Viatcheslav Ekimov and Yaroslav Popovych with a special shout-out to Spaniards Roberto Heras and Chechu Rubiera.
After the confessions of Landis, Hamilton, Hincapie, Leipheimer, Vande Velde, Danielson, Vaughters and Zabriskie, the silence from Livingston has been deafening. Livingston was one of the Lance originals –he stood by Lance at the cancer ward bedside and give everything for Armstrong in the 1999 and 2000 Tours de France.
When he couldn’t get a raise at Postal, he signed with Lance’s top rival Jan Ullrich at Telekom. At the time, Armstrong said something like Kevin went to the dark side to ride for Darth Vader. Still, when the USADA investigators came calling, Livingston didn’t have anything to say. Worth noting that he works out of Armstrong’s Mellow Johnny store in Austin, Texas as a Pedal Hard coach. Kevin always has a barbecue invite at casa Armstrong.
Then there’s the rider who Armstrong always held up as the consummate professional, Ekimov. The Russian is an old school tough guy and you could torture him for weeks without getting a single word of testimony on Armstrong. Just name, rank and frame size. He rode for Armstrong from 2000 to 2006 and he aint’ changing his story. The Boss was clean and clear as Russian vodka.
Eki is taking over the Katusha squad this year as general manager so he has a huge extra incentive to keep his mouth shut. Critics have already noted his low profile and disinterest in commenting on the USADA reasoned decision.
Then there’s loyal domestique Yaroslav Popovych. Over a year ago it appeared that Federal investigators had worked him over pretty good. They confiscated his computer and files and hit him with a subpoena the second he showed up in Texas for an Armstrong charity ride. However it appears that Popo decided there was noting anybody in the United States could do to him. Popo isn’t going to pop off about dirty trade secrets.
When it comes to loyalty, who has been more supportive of Armstrong than the Spanish in general and Lance’s Spanish Postal boys in particular? Juan Pelota is still respected in Spain where champions such as Miguel Indurain and Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde continue to call him the winner of those seven Tours.
Postal climbers Roberto Heras and Chechu Rubiera are in for the long climb. They’re taking their secrets to the grave. No tales of Poe or Testosterone patches or blood bags on wire coat hangers in hotel rooms. Don’t’ expect Rubiera or Heras to write their Tell-All book about the Blue Train and what they used for fuel.
It certainly makes sense that the foreign siders on Armstrong’s Tour teams see no legal reason to admit anything so our Twisted Spoke Omertà Award goes to the man from Montana, Kevin Livingston.