Lance Armstrong's former team-mates have revealed the pressure they faced to take performance-enhancing drugs during their time at his US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team.
Eleven testified against Armstrong to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, who have accused his team of running "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen". The USADA praised their "courage" in coming forward and several have now released mea culpa statements of their own.
Michael Barry, who since 2010 has ridden for Team Sky and will retire at the end of the 2012 season, competed for the USPS team from 2002 to 2006. He said on his website, www.michaelbarry.ca: "After being encouraged by the team, pressured to perform and pushed to my physical limits I crossed a line I promised myself and others I would not: I doped."
The 36-year-old added: "It was a decision I deeply regret. It caused me sleepless nights, took the fun out of cycling and racing, and tainted the success I achieved at the time. This was not how I wanted to live or race."
American George Hincapie, 39, was at the USPS team for 10 years from 1997 to 2007. He retired in August.
He said on www.georgehincapie.com. "Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them. I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologise to my family, team-mates and fans."
Hincapie said he had competed clean for the past six years and during that time had worked hard to rid the sport of drugs.
"During this time, I continued to successfully compete at the highest level of cycling while mentoring young professional riders on the right choices to make to ensure that the culture of cycling had changed," he said.
Christian Vande Velde, who was at the USPS team from 1998 to 2003 and now rides for Slipstream-Chipotle, said: "As a young pro rider I competed drug free, not winning, but holding my own and achieving decent results.
"Then, one day, I was presented with a choice that to me, at the time, seemed like the only way to continue to follow my dream at the highest level of the sport. I gave in and crossed the line, a decision that I deeply regret. I was wrong to think I didn't have a choice - the fact is that I did, and I chose wrong."