Cheating was never part of Michael Barry's cycling dream. But once on the pro circuit, the Toronto native soon found it was part of the sport's reality at its highest level.
"My first year on the [U.S. Postal Service] team I was clean but I saw what was going on around me," Barry said in an interview from his home in Spain.
"I figured out my roommates were doping. And then it started to wear on me, seeing all the drug use around me and I was suffering, I wasn't performing that well."
Barry, who joined the Lance Armstrong-led Postal team in 2002, was pushing his body to its limit. Instead of challenging, he was "really suffering at the back of the peloton."
A bad crash on the eighth stage of the Tour of Spain - Barry was hit by a motorcycle - was the nadir of his year. He wondered if he could compete without cheating.
"And then the next season, one of the riders suggested that I might want to try using some EPO [a banned blood-boosting hormone] and testosterone. I started considering it and eventually I approached the doctors and asked them. And it was supplied to me."
The 36-year-old Barry, who retired last month, had succumbed to the dark side of his sport. And although he says he stopped doping in 2006, he has been forced to live a lie ever since.
Until Wednesday. That's when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency revealed that Barry was one of 11 former teammates who had testified against Armstrong.
Barry's 16-page affidavit lifts the lid on the U.S.
Postal Team doping. What starts with him finding used drug paraphernalia in a teammate's apartment eventually leads to the Canadian joining the brotherhood of doping himself.
According to Barry, riders shared drugs and ways to use them.
"When you're sharing a lie together, that bonds you in some sense but it also breeds jealousies and a very kind of toxic environment," he said. "And ultimately when I look back on those years, they were difficult years - very difficult."
As for Armstrong, Barry says he can't offer much.
"I can't comment on Lance because I never saw him dope and I don't know what he did," Barry told CP. "But if he is lying, I hope he comes clean. For me personally, it feels good to be honest and to not have to live a lie anymore."
But in his affidavit, Barry does say teammate David Zabriskie told him about a time that fellow Postal rider Floyd Landis "had to babysit bags of Lance Armstrong's blood while Lance was out of town to make sure the blood did not go bad."
He also says Armstrong emailed him in 2010 after both were implicated in doping allegations from Landis. Barry says Armstrong asked him if he would testify there was no systematic doping on their old team.
Barry told him to have his lawyer contact him. He subsequently got an email from the lawyer but never spoke with him about Armstrong's request.
The USADA has banned Armstrong for life and says his seven Tour de France victories are nullified.
In the wake of his admissions, Barry has received the minimum six-month suspension. Since he is retired, it does not mean much, but he says the USADA is pushing the world governing body of the sport for amnesty for those who co-operated in their probe.
Never a star in the sport, Barry was a foot soldier who played a support role for stars like Armstrong.
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