USADA makes formal doping charges against Armstrong, Tour titles at risk
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

USADA makes formal doping charges against Armstrong, Tour titles at risk

by Shane Stokes at 4:30 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Doping
 
Suggestions that samples from 2009 and 2010 may also be considered suspect

Lance ArmstrongSeven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong faces the prospect of losing at least some of those titles after the US Anti-Doping Agency brought formal charges against the Texan in relation to the alleged use of doping substances.

The Washington Post has reported that the long-running investigation into the rider and his former US Postal Service team has progressed to the point where USADA has moved to act against Armstrong and others. It said that a fifteen page letter was sent to the former pro rider and others on Tuesday, laying out charges against them.

Amongst the claims made are that Armstrong, team manager Johan Bruyneel, doctors Michele Ferrari (Italy), Pedro Celaya (Luxembourg, who currently works with Team RadioShack), Luis Garcia del Moral (Spain) and the Spanish trainer Pepe Marti, who has coached Alberto Contador, were involved in what is being termed a massive doping conspiracy between 1998 and 2011. The Post states that there are more then ten cyclists amongst the witnesses.

These are likely to include Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and Frankie Andreu, all former USPS riders, who have made public statements about doping use on the team.

USADA’s letter is said to state that Armstrong used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, corticosteroids and masking agents. In addition to that, and potentially more seriously, are claims that he distributed and administered drugs to others.

While the claims of Landis, Hamilton and Andreu relate to a period prior to Armstrong’s retirement in 2005, the Washington Post states that USADA is alleging that blood samples collected from Armstrong after his return, specifically in 2009 and 2010, were “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”

The 40 year old has been immediate suspended from competition. While he is no longer a professional cyclist, he cannot participate in triathlon events, his new focus. They too are under USADA and WADA’s jurisdiction.

As might be expected, Armstrong’s legal team are fighting the USADA action. They are claiming conspiracy against their client. “These charges are a product of malice and spite and not evidence,” stated Armstrong’s Washington-based attorney Robert D. Luskin, who the Washington Post spoke to in a telephone interview today. “Nothing else explains the fact . . . they allege an overarching doping conspiracy among four teams over fourteen years and Lance is the only rider that gets charged.”

USADA is yet to comment, though, and so it remains to be seen if other riders will indeed face charges or not.

Latest development in long-running investigation:


Armstrong has denied doping claims for many years, but had to step up those denials when Floyd Landis alleged during the 2010 Tour of California that the Texan, Bruyneel and others were involved in systematic doping with the USPS team.

Landis had been stripped of his own Tour win in 2006 due to a positive test for testosterone. He denied those charges for several years, but his 2010 claims also included a personal admission that he had used banned substances for much of his career.

Tyler Hamilton, who had also served a doping ban, stepped forward last May and said that he too had both witnessed and been involved in drug use on the team. Andreu had previously made similar claims against Armstrong, saying that the Texan had admitted using drugs prior to developing cancer in 1996.

Armstrong strongly denied the claims, but both WADA and USADA stated that they were taking the allegations seriously.

Others were said to have given evidence in a federal investigation which was set up, with unconfirmed reports suggesting that former USPS riders such as George Hincapie had been called to testify.

The federal investigators worked alongside USADA and foreign police and drug enforcement officials, joining forces across borders to try to determine what had taken place. However, despite several suggestions that charges were coming, the federal investigation was suddenly closed down on February 3rd by United States Attorney André Birotte Jr.

Armstrong’s attorney Mark Fabiani welcomed the decision at the time. “This is great news,” he said. “Lance is pleased that the United States Attorney made the right decision, and he is more determined than ever to devote his time and energy to Livestrong and to the causes that have defined his career.”

However US Anti Doping Agency CEO Travis T. Tygart said then that the matter wasn’t over, and that its own enquiries would remain in place.

“Unlike the U.S. Attorney, USADA’s job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws,” he indicated in a statement. “Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation.”

The latest news relates to that investigation. In response, Armstrong has issued a brief statement via his publicist.

“I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one,” he stated. “That USADA ignores this fundamental distinction and charges me instead of the admitted dopers says far more about USADA, its lack of fairness and this vendetta than it does about my guilt or innocence. Any fair consideration of these allegations has and will continue to vindicate me.”

However last month he indicated that he was finished fighting claims against him, telling Men’s Journal that he had enough. “In my mind, I’m truly done. You can interpret that however you want,” he said. “But no matter what happens, I’m finished. I’m done fighting. I’ve moved on. If there are other things that arise, I’m not contesting anything. Case closed.”

That appears borne out by Luskin, who said that said USADA sent Armstrong a letter last week asking him to meet with anti-doping officials. Luskin said that Armstrong declined because he felt that USADA wanted a confession rather than his testimony.

It’s unclear now what the Texan will do next. He told Men’s Journal last month that he believed people had already decided what they believed, one way or another.

“I’d never waste another minute trying to convince somebody I’m innocent,” he said. “I think everybody’s made up their minds. Nobody’s on the fence about me anymore. It’s kind of refreshing. If someone says, ‘I think you F*** cheated, I go, ‘ok, great. Can we talk about something else? Because I really don’t give a shit what you think. I’m not going to waste any more time having that argument.”

He might be finished, but USADA apparently hasn’t.

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