But the whispers that always dogged him have been amplified and corroborated by key associates in the scathing report that encompasses 1,000 pages of testimony, financial documents, lab records, emails and photos.
USADA said Armstrong's success was achieved "through a massive team doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in pro sports history...in a fraudulent course of conduct that extended over a decade." The report covers the period from 1998 through 2010, including Armstrong's record streak from 1999-2005 and his comeback in 2009-2010.
Most of those years he was treated by the Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, nicknamed "Dr. Blood" by pro cyclists who knew of his doping methods or paid for them. Ferrari was convicted of sporting fraud in Italy in 2004. Armstrong made at least $1 million in payments to Ferrari, according to Ferrari's Health and Performance company records.
The report cited two other doctors from Spain who administered drugs and transfusions to Armstrong and team members. One of them once hid a bag of saline solution under his coat while a drug tester was setting up to screen Armstrong. The doctor slipped into Armstrong's hotel room and transfused the masking solution in time to foil the test.
Armstrong's ex-wife Kristin wrapped cortisone tablets in tin foil for the team at the 1998 world championships, and a rider quipped that "Lance's wife is rolling joints," recalled then-teammate Jonathan Vaughters, now an advocate of drug-free cycling.
Teammates said they first became aware of Armstrong's EPO use because he often carried a thermos in midsummer -- a telltale sign that he was using it to keep the drug cool and prevent it from spoiling.
Doctors, the team trainer, a soigneur (or masseuse) -- even a handyman known as "Motoman" because of his motorcyling skills on winding Tour roads -- facilitated delivery of drugs. Armstrong referred to one delivery in a paper bag as "liquid gold," Andreu said. Teammates also provided drugs to each other; Armstrong let Tyler Hamilton and Hincapie borrow vials of EPO, and they would visit each others' apartments to have blood extractions.
During the 1999 Tour, when Armstrong tested positive for a corticosteroid, Armstrong's masseuse Emma O'Reilly listened while Armstrong, the team doctor and team director Johan Bruyneel fabricated a coverup story. The doctor backdated a prescription for cortisone cream for a saddle sore that never existed. "Now, Emma, you know enough to bring me down," she recalled Armstrong saying. O'Reilly said she had previously covered a needle bruise on Armstrong's arm with makeup.
Armstrong was also known to bully and intimidate his detractors with threats of lawsuits. He was quoted as vowing to ruin Greg LeMond's Trek bike line with one phone call to the company. He accosted Tyler Hamilton at a Colorado restaurant and said he'd make his life "a living hell." He rode next to Filippo Simeoni and gave an irate "zip the lips" sign.
Some of Armstrong's most famous rides appear to have been less than heroic. During the 2000 Tour, when he went from six minutes behind to four minutes ahead in an explosive 8.5-mile uphill stretch, he was using a blood product called Actovegin, the report said, and when French authorities found packaging for it in the team's trash, Armstrong said he had no idea what it was. Two days before dueling Marco Pantani on the steep Mt. Ventoux stage, he, Hamilton and Kevin Livingston received transfusions as they "lay on the bed and shivered while the chilly blood re-entered our bodies," Hamilton said.