DOCTOR Michele Ferrari, among the few still prepared to defend Lance Armstrong, insists he never saw the fallen American star take drugs or deal to others.
While Armstrong has remained largely silent on the overwhelming case against him, Ferrari - who has also been issued a lifetime ban from cycling, and is said to be an architect of the systematic drug program that has landed professional road cycling in crisis - is still considering a legal challenge to his sanction. ''I've never seen any doping practice from Lance Armstrong,'' Ferrari, whom the US Anti-Doping Agency banned for life for his orchestration of a drug program at Armstrong's US Postal Service team, said in a television interview with Al Jazeera.
''I can say I've never seen, I never heard something about that. He [Armstrong] never asked me for information about doping.''
Almost 30 witnesses, including many former US Postal teammates of Armstrong, portrayed Ferrari as a doping ringleader in evidence for USADA's case against the cyclist who won the Tour de France seven times.
Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and George Hincapie are among those who talked to USADA about Ferrari. ''My relationship with some teammates of Lance Armstrong was very, very short and occasional. It was not strict,'' Ferrari said.
''There are six riders that accused me, but these riders, I didn't have any relationship, any consulting with these guys. What I can say about the USADA investigation is that there is no evidence, in particular no evidence against me.''
According to USADA, Armstrong paid Ferrari around $US1 million between 1996 and 2006.
Australian rider Michael Rogers, who recently left Sky Racing to join Saxo-Tinkoff, was named in the USADA report that brought down Armstrong because of a past connection with Ferrari.
Rogers admitted in 2006 that he had consulted Ferrari while racing for the T-Mobile team. A former fan of Ferrari's - Rogers once described him as ''the best coach in the world'' - the Australian recently said their dealings were entirely innocent.
''He has made some mistakes, and I think he has learnt from them. But with me, he never mentioned anything of that [drugs]. It was just hard work and training,'' Rogers recently told Fairfax Media.
''I have nothing to hide, I am glad you asked. It gets it out there. I have complete transparency. When T-Mobile asked me to sever my ties with Dr Ferrari I obviously cut them.''