Everyone knows the story of the ruthless, sprawling mob boss versus the lonely, dogged, almost obsessive investigator.

We made books, films, series.

But this story is sometimes real, like when Damien Ressiot, journalist at

L'Equipe

, raises his hand, volunteering to write an article on doping.

The rest, his reputation in the cycling world, the start of his investigation of Lance Armstrong, the tricks, the publication, he tells them in the new season of France Culture's "Mechanics of Journalism" podcast, available from Tuesday 28 June and that

20 Minutes

was able to consult.

With the arrival of Damien Ressiot at

L'Equipe

, causing a scandal to break out at EPO is almost unthinkable.

First of all because we “told nonsense” about it, like Guy Roux who said: “You can find it in chocolate bars”.

And then because around him, there are only journalists "there to tell the legend of sport" and do not want "to upset their proximity to the sportsmen".

The Tour de France restarts in 1999, a year after the Festina affair, as if nothing had happened despite an article in

Le Monde

which highlights the presence of corticosteroids in discarded pots of urine.

Damien Ressiot is training, weaving a network with scientists at the same time as his reputation precedes him on the roads of the Tour.

“It is useless for me to go on the ground, because the doors are closing,” he notes.

"Can't we silence him, this Ressiot?"

»

So how do you take on the "ultimate challenge" Armstrong, "an ugly guy, kicking out people who dare get in his way"?

The cyclist Christophe Basson will also be exfiltrated from the 1999 Tour for having questioned the performance of the American.

This is where Damien Ressiot's unique network comes into play: in 2004, the Châtenay-Malabry national laboratory looked at the samples from 1999. The goal?

Improving their EPO screening technique, developed in 2001 and since overtaken by those who dope.

For the journalist, it's a golden opportunity: Lance Armstrong's samples will be able to speak.

Then begins a real treasure hunt to make the link between the analyzed but anonymous samples and the American.

Damien Ressiot then did not hesitate to contact the UCI boss, Hein Verbruggen, and Lance Armstrong himself, to obtain the key document: the report of the levy, on which appear the name of the rider and sample number.

Taking advantage of being the only one aware of the analyzes of Châtenay-Malabry, he explains that he can remove another doubt: that of the drugs that Armstrong would have taken in 1999, when he was returning from his cancer.

He even imagines the discussions between the two men and Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong's manager, "a good godfather": "Listen, Ressiot is an idiot, he pisses us off, but there we have an interest".

The Armstrong clan marches, the journalist recovers the precious documents in Switzerland, and makes the link.

The American was positive for EPO six times in 1999. The publication is not won for all that.

We must find another source, to protect people like Damien Ressiot in Châtenay-Malabry, get the green light from the lawyers of

L'Equipe

, and override the conflict of interest of the newspaper, property of the Amaury family like the Tour de France.

During an “epic” meeting, the owner even said “can't we silence this Damien Ressiot?

», while he was present.

The article finally comes out on August 23, 2005, a few weeks after Armstrong's seventh coronation.

This is not the end of the story, however: it will take another seven years for the name of the American to be erased from the list, after an FBI investigation buried but transmitted to USADA.

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  • Sport

  • Tour de France 2022

  • doping

  • Lance Armstrong

  • Epo

  • Cycling

  • Journalist

  • Investigation

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