Lance Armstrong is back on the hot seat, and we’re not talking about the tri-bike saddle that he’s been riding since he left pro cycling.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has brought formal doping charges against the 7-time Tour de France champion, alleging that Armstrong, team manager Johan Bruyneel, a team trainer and three doctors are involved in a doping conspiracy that dates back to 1998.
That’s the year after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and the year before Armstrong won his first Tour de France.
The accusations are contained in a 15-page document obtained by the Washington Post. The charges are based on blood samples taken in 2009 and 2010 that are consistent with EPO use and/or transfusions as well as corticosteroids, testosterone and masking agents. They also have testimony from fellow cyclists.
Armstrong has been the target of doping accusations throughout his later career, but charges have never been brought. Armstrong steadfastly has denied any and all reports of doping and always points out that he’s never failed a drug test. He retired from cycling for a second time in 2010 and took up triathlon competition.
The charges are not criminal in nature, but the USADA can ban him from competition and revoke his titles. The World Triathlon Corporation banned Armstrong from competition pending the outcome of this case.
I have been notified that USADA, an organization largely funded by taxpayer dollars but governed only by self-written rules, intends to again dredge up discredited allegations dating back more than 16 years to prevent me from competing as a triathlete and try and strip me of the seven Tour de France victories I earned. These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation. These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity. Although USADA alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy extended over more than 16 years, I am the only athlete it has chosen to charge. USADA’s malice, its methods, its star-chamber practices, and its decision to punish first and adjudicate later all are at odds with our ideals of fairness and fair play.
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. 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.
In response, USADA CEO Thomas Tygart issued this statement:
“In response to numerous inquiries regarding the public statements made by Mr. Lance Armstrong, we can confirm that written notice of allegations of anti-doping rule violations was sent yesterday to him and to five (5) additional individuals all formerly associated with the United States Postal Service (USPS) professional cycling team. These individuals include three (3) team doctors and two (2) team officials. This formal notice letter is the first step in the multi-step legal process for alleged sport anti-doping rule violations.
USADA only initiates matters supported by the evidence. We do not choose whether or not we do our job based on outside pressures, intimidation or for any reason other than the evidence. Our duty on behalf of clean athletes and those that value the integrity of sport is to fairly and thoroughly evaluate all the evidence available and when there is credible evidence of doping, take action under the established rules.
As in every USADA case, all named individuals are presumed innocent of the allegations unless and until proven otherwise through the established legal process. If a hearing is ultimately held then it is an independent panel of arbitrators, not USADA that determines whether or not these individuals have committed anti-doping rule violations as alleged.”
The Justice Department probe Armstrong refers to ended in February after the feds could not determine if Armstrong and others used team sponsorship money to pay for doping. At the time, the USADA said their investigation was continuing.
The six named in the latest charges all face bans. In addition to Armstrong and Bruyneel, they are trainer Jose Pepi Marti of Switzerland, and physicians Michele Ferrari, Pedro Celaya of Luxembourg and Luis Garcia del Moral of Spain.
The letter states that multiple cyclists can testify that their “firsthand knowledge” of the doping, which included other cyclists.
Former US Postal Service teammates Floyd Landis raised the latest round of allegations against Armstrong shortly before the 2010 Tour of California. Later Tyler Hamilton admitted to “60 Minutes” to using performance enhancing drugs administered by Armstrong. “60 Minutes” also reported that George Hincapie told a grand jury empaneled by the feds that he and Armstrong doped.
Lately, Armstrong has been training for triathlons and aiming for the Iron Man Triathlon in Kona later this year.