Pro cyclists suffer disgrace from association with Lance Armstrong (updated)

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Update: If you’re interested in reading the Reasoned Decision offered by the US Anti-Doping Association against Lance Armstrong, the 202-page document is available here at the USADA website. Testimony and other documents are available at US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team Investigation.

One of the unfortunate sidelights in the Lance Armstrong doping affair is the number of pro cyclists whose careers have been tainted by their association with the former 7-time Tour de France winner.

Lance Armstrong meets the press

The US Anti-Doping Association released details of its 1,000-page report on its case against Armstrong on Wednesday. It includes testimony for 26 individuals of whom 15 are cyclists, 11 of them former members of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling team.

Six of those received six-month suspensions stemming from their testimony, confirming why none of them competed in the London Olympics. Those cyclists and their most recent teams are:

Michael Barry (Sky)

Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp)

George Hincapie (BMC Racing)

Levi Leipheimer

Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp)

David Zabriskie (Garmin-Sharp)

Hincapie and Barry already had announced their retirements. The others ended their seasons by September, so could be eligible to join the pro peloton by Paris-Nice in the spring, according to CyclingNews.


To the rest of us, all six got to bask in the glory of riding alongside Armstrong as he rolled up victory after victory at the Tour de France. Hincapie became famous for not only finishing 17 Tours de France but for tying a record as a member of 9 winning Tour de France teams (7 with Armstrong and once each with Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans).

Now the case report from the USADA reveals that the six doped and submitted to other performance-enhancing routines to race on that Postal team.


USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a press release:

“It took tremendous courage for the riders on the USPS Team and others to come forward and speak truthfully,” Tygart wrote in a press release. “It is not easy to admit your mistakes and accept your punishment. But that is what these riders have done for the good of the sport, and for the young riders who hope to one day reach their dreams without using dangerous drugs or methods.”

In anticipation of this week’s release of the USADA report, Armstrong attorney Tim Herman wrote a letter to USADA saying the report relies on “serial perjurers” and enlisted the help of lawyers whose clients also include the tobacco lobby.

George Hincapie

Hincapie and Barry

Hincapie also released a statement at his website that reads in part:

“Three years ago, I was approached by U.S. federal investigators, and more recently by USADA, and asked to tell of my personal experience in these matters. I would have been much more comfortable talking only about myself, but understood that I was obligated to tell the truth about everything I knew. So that is what I did. Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them. I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologize to my family, teammates and fans.”

[Link to Hincapie’s affidavit to USADA]

Barry also issued a statement at his website that reads in part:

“After being encouraged by the team, pressured to perform and pushed to my physical limits I crossed a line I promised myself and others I would not: I doped. It was a decision I deeply regret. It caused me sleepless nights, took the fun out of cycling and racing, and tainted the success I achieved at the time. This was not how I wanted to live or race.”

Coming clean

The other US cyclists who testified include Floyd Landis, Frankie Andreu, Tyler Hamilton, Stephen Swart and Jonathan Vaughters.

Landis, disgraced after he was charged with doping in the 2006 Tour de France, could be called the whistle-blower in the affair. After maintaining his innocence for years, he turned on Armstrong at the beginning of the 2010 Tour of California.

Andreu and Swart had testified about drug use on the Postal Service team for years, and Vaughters helped create a cycling team (now racing as Garmin-Sharp) that was openly against drug use. Hamilton appeared on “60 Minutes.”

Let’s hope in the future that pro cyclists will stick to their convictions when presented with the opportunity to cheat.

Case continues

While Armstrong has said he won’t fight the charges from USADA, three other former US Postal Service pro cycling team associates will contest the allegations in the report. Team director Johan Bruyneel, team doctor Dr. Pedro Celaya and team trainer Jose “Pepe” Marti are taking their cases to public arbitration, where they’ll get to question witnesses and examine the evidence.

Also: Interesting graphic at New York Times shows Top 10 finishers at Tour de France who have been tainted by drug use since 1998.

Reasoned decision

The USADA put out its case to the public on Wednesday in the “Reasoned Decision.” This is USADA’s version of things pieced together from testimony of cyclists, witnesses and evidence.

I don’t know how much new is in it, most of it has been leaked to the press at one time or another.  Searching Kristin Armstrong’s name, for instance, turns up the episode where Armstrong’s former wife handed out foil-wrapped cortisone tablets to team cyclists before a race.

There are many interesting stories, such as Armstrong telling Vande Velde that he’d lose his place on the team if he didn’t strictly adhere to Dr. Michele Ferrari’s doping regimen. In another scene, Armstrong was livid about 3-time Tour winner Greg Lemond’s comments about Armstrong’s personal doctor (Ferrari) and vowed to “take him down.”

Here’s an excerpt from Hincapie’s affidavit that explains how he got brought into the doping circle:

The Boulder Report blog at Bicycling magazine has a good running update of all the news related to the USADA’s disclosures.

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1 comment

    • TheBoy on October 11, 2012 at 5:58 am
    • Reply

    I like the angle you took in this blog post. The harm caused by Lance’s operation to the reputation of other cyclists (let’s hope it’s just to their reputations.)

    Someone asked me yesterday, “If its true, why did it take so long for this to come out.” I think the answer is that key parts of the story have been out their for years, but the vast majority of American cycling fans simply refused to pay attention or acknowledge the implications of those facts. (So, Nike could continue its marketing relation with Lance because Nike saw it as money maker.) Other cyclists, facing potential retaliation from Lance, could easily see coming forward as a very bad idea. In some ways, it took guys with nothing else to lose — Landis and Hamilton — to break the thing lose.

    Quite an incredible example of how a group of people can be manipulated.

    A sidelight, but one worth mentioning is Trek’s role. Armstrong apparently believed (and others believed) that Armstrong could get Trek to retaliate against Lance’s “enemies.” I didn’t notice any direct evidence that that was actually the case, but if I recall, it comes up in the discussion of LeMond and in Vaughter’s hiring of Dr. Steffan.

    Another thing interesting about the statements is that knowledge of what was going on was very widespread in the peleton. Those guys must have been shaking their heads at the naiveté of America’s devoted Lance acolytes who just would not believe the evidence that Lance doped.

    Today’s NYTimes story is the first mainstream mention of the fact that EPO was found in Lance’s urine collected after his 1999 “victory.” Up until now, this has either been ignored or dismissed because it was not technically a doping violation. I think reporters were just to lazy to read the whole report and simply believed Lance’s dismissal.

    The cortisone positive is also finally being reported accurately: Lance tested positive but had an excuse. (We have known for years that the excuse was bogus, but now we know how and where it was concocted from sworn statements.)

    BTW, I didn’t know that the Livestrong foundation doesn’t sponsor cancer research until I read it in the NYTimes yesterday.

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