US Postal investigation: Claims that Hincapie, Leipheimer, Zabriskie, Vande Velde and Vaughters testified
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Thursday, July 05, 2012

US Postal investigation: Claims that Hincapie, Leipheimer, Zabriskie, Vande Velde and Vaughters testified

by Shane Stokes at 5:02 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Leak puts pressure on witnesses

Lance Armstrong  Floyd LandisDutch newspaper Telesport has reported what it says are the identities of four riders and one manager who have given evidence to both federal agents and the US Anti Doping Agency.

Quoting an anonymous source, it named five of Armstrong’s former team-mates, four of whom are racing on this Tour. They are George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), the only rider who was present for every one of his seven victories, Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma Quick Step) and the Garmin-Sharp duo of Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie. The fifth individual is Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters.

Telesport claims that all of the five admitted using banned substances in the past and have been given six month bans from the sport, starting after the Vuelta a España.

Armstrong’s legal team had previously claimed that the witnesses were both unknown to them and also got full immunity.

Four of the five mentioned have not commented today. However Vaughters released a brief message on Twitter: ‘Regarding the Dutch media report: No 6mos (six months) suspensions have been given to any member of Slipstream Sports. Today or at any future date.’

Vaughters has long emphasised the need to race clean, and set up his current team with that as a stated goal. He has hinted at using banned substances in the past, saying that he made mistakes during his career and that he wanted to build a better future for the sport.

When the federal investigation into the US Postal Service and Lance Armstrong gathered pace, Vaughters urged all members of his team with knowledge of doping practices in the past to speak honestly to investigators. He said that the team would support them in telling the truth.

While Armstrong and his legal team have criticised Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton as having no credibility, the five named today have not been implicated in doping scandals in the past. If they have indeed given evidence, their testimony will be much harder to dismiss as sour grapes.

Armstrong, former US Postal Service 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 have all been accused of widespread doping practices by USADA.

Last Friday the agency confirmed that its review board had unanimously decided to press charges in relation to the matter. The six individuals concerned could face up to a lifetime ban from sport, and Armstrong risks losing several or all of his Tour titles.

The source of today’s leak is not clear, but it seems unlikely to have come from USADA. Indeed, in naming the riders during the Tour de France, considerable pressure is put on them.

USADA previously stated that it didn’t want to name the witness as it was concerned that they would be exposed to intimidation.

The four riders now have unexpected extra pressure to deal with during the Tour de France. Each of the four had previously told US Cycling that they were withdrawing from the Olympic team. Last month Hincapie announced that he plans to retire after the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

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