By Tom Bettag, Mary Murphy, and Ronnie Polidoro
Updated at 3:56 a.m. ET on Friday: For some of those who knew Lance Armstrong the best, his fall from grace amid doping allegations is no surprise at all. Betsy Andreu, a former family friend to Armstrong told NBC’s Harry Smith that Lance Armstrong is the “Bernie Madoff” of the sporting world. Andreu says Armstrong played the world and the media for years while knowingly taking performance enhancing drugs.
In an interview broadcast Thursday on NBC’s Rock Center, Smith asked Andreu why she compares Armstrong to disgraced financier Bernie Madoff. Andreu said, “Because Bernie Madoff was one of the biggest frauds in the history of the world, in the history of finance maybe? Lance is the biggest fraud in the history of sport.”
Andreu was once part of Armstrong’s inner circle. Her husband Frankie was one of Armstrong’s teammates and one of his best friends.
However, Andreu says she and Armstrong had a falling out when she refused to lie about something she heard while visiting Armstrong in the hospital at the time he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“The doctors come in and I suggested we leave and to give Lance his privacy. And Lance said, ‘That's okay. You can stay.’ And I turned to Frankie, because Lance was in front of us, and I said, 'I think we should leave to give him his privacy.’ And he said we could stay, ‘Everybody's friends here,’” Andreu told Smith.
Andreu says doctors asked a few banal questions and then asked if Armstrong had used any performance enhancing drugs.
“Lance, holding his I.V., nonchalantly rattled off, ‘Yes, steroids, testosterone, growth hormone, E.P.O., cortisone,’” Andreu said. “My eyes popped out of my head. Frankie saw that I was upset and he excused ourselves and we left.”
Despite her disdain towards Armstrong, Andreu still maintains some sympathy for the fallen cyclist.
“On one hand, there is some compassion, because I don't think he ever healed the child within. And it made him this diabolical person that he is today,” Andreu said.
Armstrong has repeatedly denied the use of performance enhancing drugs or what has become more commonly known as doping. NBC News has reached out to Armstrong and is waiting for a comment.