No doubt over the coming weeks and months, as the federal investigation into Lance Armstrong comes to a climax, there will be plenty of riders, past and present who will be asked to comment. Now more than ever it is important to scrutinise carefully what each of them say and not allow what they say to easily pass into the realm of what is true.
Armstrong himself has been a master of proof by repeating over the years. A major case in point is his tired old line 'the most tested sportsperson in the world'. This line has been repeated so often by Armstrong and his entourage that it seems to be taken as fact by millions. This, despite the fact that Armstrong himself has no way of knowing whether this is true or not.
There is also his mantra that he has 'never tested positive' which is also quoted as fact in an alarming amount of journalistic pieces. This is simply not true, he tested positive for a corticosteroid in 1999. But Armstrong's constant repitition that he has never failed a test has millions believeing it.
These thoughts came to mind having read a recent comment by Armstrong's former teammate Viatcheslav Ekimov. Speaking to the Associated Press, Ekimov labelled Tyler Hamilton a liar. He also said the following:
"He was there [at US Postal] when I was there for maybe two years but we raced in few races together, because he was like a Grand Tour guy and a stage-race guy and I was doing all the classics. I was never there with him. Maybe twice at the Tour de France, but that was it."
Ekimov is clearly trying to distance himself from Hamilton and his allegations and it suits the Russian to be able to say that he didn't often race with Hamilton. But what he has said here must not be immediately believed and considered to be true, because it isn't.
Ekimov and Hamilton rode together on the US Postal service team for four years, not two as Ekimov would have us believe. They were teammates there in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001. In addition, they also rode the Tour de France together in each of those years. That's four Tours de France, not 'maybe twice' as Ekimov tells us.
Furthermore, having only browsed around the cycling history sites for about five minutes this morning, I discovered that they rode together at the Tour de Suisse in 2001, the Route du Sud, San Sebastian and the GP Eddy Merckx in 2000 and the Volta a Catalunya in 1998. Finding startlists from the 1990s is not easy, so I have no doubt that Ekimov and Hamilton rode more races together that I didn't come across this morning.