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A Glossary of Lance Armstrong’s Secret Language

Lance Armstrong (L) rides close to compatriot Tyler Hamilton during the fifth stage of the '56th Criterium du Dauphine Libere, between Bollene and Sisteron, 11 June 2004.

Photograph by Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images

Lance Armstrong (L) rides close to compatriot Tyler Hamilton during the fifth stage of the '56th Criterium du Dauphine Libere, between Bollene and Sisteron, 11 June 2004.

Yesterday the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released its 202-page report that chronicles Lance Armstrong’s use of performance enhancing drugs during his cycling career. According to the long-awaited report, Armstrong repeatedly beat drug testers with an elaborate, mafia-like system of doping doctors, drug mules, and payoffs to the sport’s governing body.

Cycling fans, however, got a good taste of Armstrong’s covert world last month when his former teammate Tyler Hamilton released a tell-all book, The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, And Winning at all Costs. Among other revelations, the book unearthed the secret language used by cyclists when discussing drugs. Armstrong, other cyclists, and doctors used this strange terminology to fool authorities should they come under investigation, according to Hamilton.

BB — Bags of blood that were extracted from a rider’s body months before a major race. The riders would then transfuse the blood back into their veins during rest days. The process increases blood’s oxygen-carrying capabilities, which provides a significant boost in endurance.

Band-Aids — Patches with testosterone gel in the center. After they were applied to the body for a couple of hours, the rider would receive a boost of testosterone. “And by [the next] morning,” writes Hamilton, “be as clean as a newborn baby.”

Butter — Armstrong and his wife Kristin referred to the blood-boosting drug erythropoietin, commonly referred to as EPO, as “butter” because, according to Hamilton, they stored it near the butter in their refrigerator.

Cecco — Luigi Cecchini, Hamilton’s trainer who lived in Lucca, Italy, and who encouraged him to “dope as little as possible.”

Choads — Whiners, weaklings, or riders who complained or couldn’t hack it. A term used specifically by Armstrong. For example: American cyclist Bobby Julich was deemed to be a “grade-A choad.”

Edgar, Zumo, O.J., Salsa, Vitamin E, Therapy — All terms used for EPO. “Edgar” was shorthand for “Edgar Allen Poe.”

Glowing, Glow-time — The period immediately after a cyclist has taken performance enhancing drugs, when he would be most likely to record a positive test for PEDs.

Have dinner, Give you a present, Meet for coffee — Code terms Hamilton used for meeting Dr. Fuentes to have a blood transfusion.

Hematocrit holiday — Pre-EPO test, if a rider’s hematorcrit (percentage of red blood cells) exceeded 50 percent due to doping, he had to sit out of racing, being deemed “unfit” for competition.

Lunch Bag — Kits of EPO and drug-taking paraphenalia. Needles and vials of EPO were distributed to the Postal riders in white paper lunch bags after stages of the 1999 Tour de France.

Motoman — Code name for Armstrong’s shadowy drug mule—whose real name is Philippe Maire—who followed the U.S. Postal team on his motorcycle during the 1999 Tour de France and delivered supplies of EPO.

Paniagua — A term that refers to racing clean, without PEDs, or on simple bread (pan) and water (agua).

Pas Normal (not normal) — A term used by Armstrong when describing a rider’s unusually strong performance that was obviously the result of performance-enhancing drug use.

Polvo — A gray powder riders would sprinkle in urine if it was “glowing” (see above), to cause the drug test to come back negative.

Radioactive Coke Can — Waste. Riders dumped used syringes in empty Coca-Cola cans, and a team assistant then crushed and disposed of the cans to hide the medical waste.

Red Egg — Large, red testosterone pills used by Hamilton early in his doping career.

Schumi, Michele — Michele Ferrari, the Italian doping doctor and trainer who worked with Armstrong and the Postal team. Ferrari is currently banned from coaching all sports for life by USADA for trafficking and assisting in doping.

Ufe, El Importante, Sam — All names used for Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, who operated an elaborate blood doping ring in Madrid used by Hamilton and other top cyclists.

4142 — Dr. Fuentes’s code for Hamilton. It was the last four digits of the phone number for Hamilton’s boyhood best friend.


Frederick Dreier has covered cycling for VeloNews magazine, the SportsBusiness Journal, and the New York Times.

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