ROTTERDAM: Just hours before the Tour de France began in Rotterdam last night, the three-week race was rocked with more controversy involving seven-time champion Lance Armstrong - but this time the claims against him by former teammate Floyd Landis were of a far more personal nature.
Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour title for failing a dope test and who recently admitted lying about drug use while accusing Armstrong and a number of other cyclists of cheating, told the Wall Street Journal that Armstrong organised a team bonding party attended by strippers at which cocaine was used.
These new claims have been denied by Armstrong's lawyer, and Armstrong himself has recently said that Landis is a habitual liar who had no credibility.
The newspaper article elaborates on alleged doping practices by Armstrong, his teammates and their coterie of trainers and medical staff - from alleged blood doping to the sale of brand new bikes for cash to fund the doping system that Landis claims was in place at their team that was then sponsored by US Postal Services.
It also describes a night out with the Tour champion and a number of riders in 2001 when Landis was in Armstrong's home town of Austin, Texas during a training camp after he had been offered a contract to race for Armstrong's team.
According to Landis's account, the evening began when Armstrong drove several riders into downtown Austin. Through Landis's observations, the article reports that Armstrong sped while driving and said he paid little attention to stop signs.
The article then describes how the group attended the Yellow Rose nightclub in north Austin. The club was a venue that, according to its manager, Don King, has been a popular haunt for Armstrong and a number of cyclists for about 10 years.
The US newspaper reports Landis as describing how some of the group, after allegedly spending time in a private booth with dancers, left the nightclub for the offices of Armstrong's management agency to continue partying.
It was claimed that four strippers - accompanied by two bouncers - also attended the party and performed a private show.
The article states: Mr Landis and another young rider who attended, Walker Ferguson, said some people were snorting what appeared to be cocaine.
Landis did not allege that Armstrong was among those who had used cocaine.
The newspaper quoted Armstrong's Austin lawyer, Tim Herman, as saying: Mr Armstrong had no contact with strippers or cocaine.
Landis, who publicly made doping allegations against Armstrong during the Tour of California, said he was surprised by the party, but not offended.
I made up my mind at that point that he's got his image, and then he's got the reality. He was the best bicycle racer in the world. I could respect that part, and I was happy to be around him for that, Landis is quoted as saying.
The purpose of Landis's allegations is not explained in the article. However, the description of the Austin party and detailed explanation of alleged doping practices by Armstrong ensured that the Texan would begin his last Tour under even greater pressure than he was when he arrived.
Since Landis made his first accusations against Armstrong in May, the entire affair has been under investigation by the Food and Drugs Administration. Heading it up is Jeff Novitsky, who led the BALCO inquiry and exposed Olympic athlete Marion Jones for lying to a federal commission.
Armstrong denied Landis's accusation when they first came out in May. I have nothing to hide, Armstrong said. I think history speaks for itself here.
Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago. We have a person who has been under oath several times with a completely different version, written a book with a completely different version, someone that took money.
He said he has no proof. It is his word versus ours. We like our word. We like where we stand and we like our credibility.
One of Landis's fresh allegations is that the US Postal Services team had reportedly sold brand new Trek bikes to fund the alleged doping program.
July 4, 2010