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June 27, 2017

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Armstrong teammate George Hincapie pens stark memoir

George Hincapie was the "Loyal Lieutenant" who helped Lance Armstrong to seven Tour de France titles, only to later provide the key testimony that brought his downfall.

Now, Hincapie is talking again about one of the darkest eras in cycling.

In a book due out next month, part memoir and part mea culpa, Hincapie discusses not only his rise in cycling, from the son of a Colombian immigrant in the New York City borough of Queens to the top teammate of Armstrong, but also the pervasive use of performance-enhancing substances that came to mark an entire generation — and ultimately turned Armstrong from hero into pariah.

The Associated Press reviewed a copy of "The Loyal Lieutenant: Leading Out Lance and Pushing Through the Pain on the Rocky Road to Paris," ahead of its May 27 release. And in an exclusive interview, Hincapie told AP that he "didn't hold back" in relaying his story, whether it be the seedy underside of doping or the glitz and glamour of riding on the Champs Elysees.

"There were many times I said, 'Why am I doing this?'" Hincapie said. "I wanted to tell my story and have the reader decide what to think about it."

Written in narrative form, the book includes first-person accounts from several riders from Hincapie's generation, including Armstrong, who addressed the issue of doping in a forward.

"Drugs were so prevalent in that era that the decision itself, as our team saw it, was either play ball with everyone else or go home," Armstrong wrote. "And now the world knows what George and I chose, and we have to live with the consequences for the rest of our lives."

Armstrong was stripped of his Tour titles and given a lifetime ban for doping in 2012. He admitted to using banned substances in an interview with Oprah Winfrey last year.

Hincapie, his close friend and confidant, was among 11 former teammates who testified during the investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that ultimately brought Armstrong down. During his testimony, Hincapie discussed his knowledge of Armsmtrong's drug use and described an endemic culture of doping within the sport.

"Lance understands he did a lot of wrong things, and he is truly sorry for the things he did," Hincapie told AP. "Is it right, though, that he's being blamed for 100 years of doping? I don't think so."

Armstrong writes that his team "held out" from doping in 1994, hoping that tests would be developed to rid cycling of drug cheats. But the following year, Armstrong said, the famed bike race Milan-San Remo "ended up being the final straw where (a number of us) decided we'd do it."

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