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Area cyclist pleads guilty to federal charges

A Bethel Park competitive cyclist who testified in a Floyd Landis doping hearing pleaded guilty Wednesday in Pittsburgh to two federal charges of conspiring to distribute performance-enhancing drugs over the Internet.

Joseph Papp, 34, admitted to using his Web site, www.eposino.com , to sell human growth hormone and Erythropoietin to 187 customers, including fellow cyclists and other athletes. He declined comment after his plea hearing before U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster. His testimony in 2007 dealt with the effects of the drugs rather than providing evidence that Landis was taking them.

Landis, a Lancaster County native, was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title and banned from competitive cycling for two years after he tested positive for synthetic testosterone. Landis has maintained his innocence and unsuccessfully appealed the decision first to the American Arbitration Association and then the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Papp was a witness for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency at the first hearing in 2007. He also was banned from cycling for two years in 2006 when he tested positive for testosterone at the Tour of Turkey competition.

One of Landis' claims was that a single dose of testosterone would not have helped him win the Tour de France. Papp testified that testosterone helps cyclists during multiday races by accelerating their body's recovery after a day of cycling, according to the hearing records.

Human growth hormone (HGH) is used medically to treat growth hormone deficiency. Erythropoietin (EPO) is a protein hormone that promotes red blood cell development and is used to treat anemia.

Papp bought both drugs illegally from China and had them shipped to a mailbox at a UPS store in Bethel Park, prosecutors say. He made about $80,500 from the sale of the drugs between September 2006 and September 2007, prosecutors said.

He is scheduled to be sentenced by Lancaster on June 25 and remains free on a $25,000 unsecured bond.

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