USADA confirms unanimous decision to press doping charges against Armstrong, Bruyneel and others
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Friday, June 29, 2012

USADA confirms unanimous decision to press doping charges against Armstrong, Bruyneel and others

by Shane Stokes at 5:16 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Doping
 
Case likely to be heard before November

Lance ArmstrongSixteen days after it became known that the US Anti Doping Agency was considering pressing serious doping charges against Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel and four others involved with the US Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams, USADA’s review board has confirmed formally that the action will indeed proceed.

The seven time Tour winner risks losing at least some of those titles and also being handed up to a lifetime ban from sport if the charges are upheld by the USADA Arbitration panel.

“USADA can confirm that the independent three person Anti-Doping Review Board (ADRB) has conducted a full evaluation and has made a unanimous recommendation to move forward with the adjudication process in accordance with the rules,” stated the agency in a statement today.

“All respondents will have the opportunity to exercise their right to a full public arbitration hearing, should they so choose, where all evidence would be presented, witness testimony would be given under oath, and an independent group of arbitrators would ultimately decide the outcome of the case. USADA will continue to follow the established procedures that are compliant with federal law and were approved by athletes, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and all Olympic sports organizations.”

On June 12th USADA contacted Armstrong, Bruyneel, the doctors Michele Ferrari (Italy), Pedro Celaya (Luxembourg, who currently works with Team RadioShack), Luis Garcia del Moral (Spain) and the Spanish trainer Pepe Marti.

It accused them of being involved in what is being termed a massive doping conspiracy from 1998 onwards. Amongst the charges are that Armstrong used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, corticosteroids and masking agents and, potentially more seriously, that he distributed and administered drugs to others. Bruyneel has been charged with possession, trafficking and administration of banned substances, aiding, abetting and covering up anti-doping rule violations plus other aggravating circumstances which USADA states should justify ‘a period of ineligibility greater than the standard sanction.’

Elsewhere in that letter it said that each of the six faced a potential lifetime ban.

USADA gave the six until June 22nd to file a response to its anti-doping review board, which would then decide if there was sufficient evidence for the case to go to a full hearing.

That review board has now ruled that there are grounds to proceed. Armstrong and the other defendants can opt to accept the sanctions, or to fight them in an arbitration hearing. USADA previously stated that if it went to a hearing, it would most likely take place before November of this year.

Armstrong response:

Yesterday Armstrong’s lawyer blasted USADA, saying that the evidence included previously disclosed Landis emails and a 2011 television interview with Hamilton. He said that both were liars and claimed that USADA’s reliance on their testimony showed that the case was weak. “USADA has no regard for its own protocol, fairness or common notions of decency,” said the letter.

In response, USADA issued a statement saying that there was a reason why more evidence wasn’t communicated at this point in time.

“The ADRB has expressed concern about the potential for intimidation and retaliation against USADA’s witnesses and as part of their review, has asked USADA to only provide additional evidence of doping that is already in the public domain.”

It meant that further evidence would be brought forward at a later point in time, once the charges were approved.

USADA’s case is known to include witness testimony from at least ten cyclists. Landis and Hamilton are almost certainly amongst those, and both already have failed doping tests. However it is thought that many of the others don't have such questions over their past.

Earlier today, Armstrong attacked one of the review board panel members, Clark Griffith. He blasted him on his Twitter account, writing "Wow. (at)usantidoping can pick em. Here's ... 1 of 3 Review Board members studying my case.”

He linked to a story about Griffith which notes that the Minneapolis attorney had been charged earlier this year in a misdemeanour case of indecent exposure. Griffith entered a plea which didn’t admit wrongdoing but acknowledged prosecutors have enough evidence for him to be convicted by a jury; he has told the AP that he is innocent, but that he entered the plea to avoid a trial which could embarrass his family.

Griffith will not form any part of the arbitration panel which will ultimately decide the case. He dismissed Armstrong’s tweet as "an effort to get away from the issues that will be dealt with by an arbitration panel. OK? By smearing me, that does nothing. I'm innocent of that.”

Armstrong has denied doping and his attorney Luskin has said that most of the charges are outside the statute of limitations anyway. However USADA maintains that under its rules, the statute of limitations does not apply in this case.

Even if it did, the 2004 and 2005 Tour victories fall within the eight year timeframe, as do USADA’s claims that Armstrong’s samples from 2009 and 2010 showed evidence of doping.

It means that Armstrong and his legal team have a big battle ahead to preserve his legacy and his position as the only rider with seven Tour wins.

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