An Italian cyclist said Lance Armstrong gave him $100,000 as part of an agreement to let Armstrong win a race 20 years ago.
“It was a young American colleague,” said Roberto Gaggioli, according to Agence France-Presse translating comments in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “He offered me a panettone [a traditional Italian Christmas cake] as a present and wished me a merry Christmas. In the box there were $100,000 in small bills. That colleague was Lance Armstrong.”
The payment was for the 1993 Thrift Drug Triple Crown. Armstrong, then a 21-year-old rookie, won all three races over 21 days and a $1 million prize, at the time the richest prize in the history of cycling, according to USA Today.
Gaggioli said the payment decided Armstrong would win the final leg of the triple crown, the CoreStates USPRO Cycling Championship in Philadelphia. Armstrong was riding for the Motorola Cycling Team at the time.
“Lance said that my team, Coors Light, had agreed to it,” Gaggioli said, according to the report. “I understood that it had all been decided.”
The Italian is not the first Coors Light team cyclist to say Armstrong’s triple crown win was pre-determined.
New Zealand’s Stephen Swart gave a sworn deposition in January 2006 that Armstrong and another Motorola teammate offered him $50,000 to help fix the triple crown series during the second of the three races, which lasted five days. This was according to ABC in Australia.
Swart later joined Armstrong’s Motorola team.
The Italian newspaper added that another cyclist said he was offered money to let Armstrong win.
“Angelo Canzonieri and Lance agreed on a fee of 50, Angelo thought he meant dollars but Lance meant lire,” Roberto Pelliconi said. “At the Tour of Lombardy he gave us 50 million (lire).”
Armstrong won in Philadelphia by successfully attacking Canzonieri, Pelliconi and three others on a late climb.
“This is definitely the highlight of my career and probably my life,” Armstrong reportedly said after winning.
In 1993, Armstrong said he valued the honor won of being able to wear a stars-and-stripes jersey as the U.S. champion in European races over the $1 million.
“This is great for Lance Armstrong and Motorola, but it’s even bigger for the sport of cycling,” Armstrong told USA Today in 1993. “Football fans and couch potatoes will watch basket weaving if there’s a million bucks on the line.”