Author Topic: Armstrong Was at Center of Doping Program, Agency Says  (Read 1266 times)

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Armstrong Was at Center of Doping Program, Agency Says
« on: October 10, 2012, 01:44:00 PM »

October 10, 2012
Armstrong Was at Center of Doping Program, Agency Says

The United States Anti-Doping Agency said Wednesday that Lance Armstrong was at the center of the most sophisticated and professional doping program in recent sports history and that it would soon release details of its findings.

The agency said its dossier on Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor who denies ever doping, will include sworn testimony from 26 people, including nearly a dozen former teammates on the United States Postal Service team. Those Postal Service teammates have admitted their own doping and say that Armstrong doped, encouraged doping and administered doping products on the team, the agency said on Wednesday.

The file, as described by the agency, would be the most extensive, groundbreaking layout of Armstrong’s alleged doping, bolstered by unprecedented interviews, financial statements and laboratory results.

“The U.S.P.S. Team doping conspiracy was professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices,” the agency said. “A program organized by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today.”

In response to the antidoping agency’s statement, Timothy J. Herman, one of Armstrong’s lawyers, said in an e-mail message that the coming report “will be a one-sided hatchet job — a taxpayer-funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat-induced stories.”

The teammates who came forward and submitted sworn affidavits included some of the best cyclists of Armstrong’s generation: Levi Leipheimer; Tyler Hamilton; and George Hincapie, one of the most respected American riders in recent history. Other teammates who came forward with information were Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Floyd Landis, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie, the agency said.

Their testimony is expected to be the most widespread effort to break the code of silence in cycling that has existed for decades and perpetuated the pervasive doping in the sport.

The agency, which said its file on Armstrong consists of more than a thousand pages of evidence that will be made public Wednesday afternoon on its Web site, will detail the sanctions imposed upon those riders for admitting doping.

The agency said the evidence reveals “conclusive and undeniable proof that brings to the light of day for the first time this systemic, sustained and highly professionalized team-run doping conspiracy.”

The evidence against Armstrong features financial payments, e-mails, scientific analyses and laboratory test results that show Armstrong was doping and was the kingpin of the doping conspiracy, the agency said. Several years of Armstrong’s blood values showed evidence of doping, said a person involved in the case who did not want his name used because the results have not been revealed yet.

“It’s shocking, it’s disappointing,” said Travis Tygart, chief executive of the antidoping agency. “But we did our job.”

When Armstrong decided in August not to contest Usada’s charges, he agreed to forgo an arbitration hearing at which the evidence against him would have been aired, possibly publicly.

Under the World Anti-Doping Code, the antidoping agency must submit its evidence against Armstrong to the International Cycling Union, which has 21 days from the receipt of the case file to appeal the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Once it makes its decision, the World Anti-Doping Agency will then have 21 days in which to appeal.

The cycling union and the World Anti-Doping Agency are expected to receive the Armstrong file Wednesday, before it is made public.

The antidoping agency has been gathering evidence on Armstrong for the past several years, with its efforts increasing after Landis, the 2006 Tour winner who was stripped of the title for doping, contacted Tygart in 2010. Landis told Tygart that he, Armstrong and others on the Postal Service team were involved in systematic doping supported by the team.

At the same time, Armstrong became the target of a federal investigation into his doping and doping-related crimes, including defrauding the government, drug trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy. In particular, investigators from the Food and Drug Administration, the F.B.I. and the United States Postal Service were looking into whether Armstrong and his associates had used government money to finance doping practices.

But last February Andre Birotte, the United States attorney in Los Angeles, announced that his office was dropping the investigation into Armstrong. He gave no reason for abandoning the inquiry that lasted nearly two years and involved extensive travel, including to Europe, where antidoping agency and law enforcement officials met with their counterparts from Italy and France.

While the criminal investigation is no more, an inquiry by the Department of Justice is continuing, sparked by Landis’s filing a federal whistle-blower lawsuit charging that Armstrong and the team management defrauded the government by using taxpayer dollars to finance the squad’s doping program.

He claimed that Armstrong and the team management were aware of the widespread doping on the team when the squad’s contract with the Postal Service clearly stated that any doping would constitute default of their agreement, said two people with knowledge of the case. Those people did not want their names published because the case is still under seal.

Landis filed the lawsuit under the False Claims Act, the people with knowledge of the matter said, and those suits give citizens the right and financial incentive to bring lawsuits on the government’s behalf.

If the government decides to join the lawsuit and recovers any money because of it, Landis would be eligible to receive a percentage of the money.

Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, has said Landis made up the story of doping on the team because he had not been hired by Armstrong after Landis ended his two-year suspension from the sport for doping.

When the antidoping agency announced this summer that it would file charges against Armstrong, he immediately denounced the agency’s claims and called its process of sanctioning athletes “a kangaroo court.” He filed a federal lawsuit in August, saying the antidoping agency was depriving him of his constitutional right for due process and asking the court to stop the antidoping agency from moving forward with its case. A judge dismissed the lawsuit.

In a statement by his lawyer on Wednesday, Hincapie, the only rider who was at Armstrong’s side for Armstrong’s seven Tour victories, acknowledged doping and apologized to his family, teammates and fans for his dishonesty.

“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,” said Hincapie, who retired from cycling this year after riding in a record 17th Tour. “I deeply regret that choice.”

Hincapie, the five-time Olympian and three-time national road race champion, said that he had been approached by federal investigators in the spring of 2010 and they asked him to divulge his experience with doping. That summer, he sat down with them and admitted he had cheated with drugs — but also reluctantly spoke about the other cyclists involved in doping because he felt “obligated to tell the truth about everything he knew,” he said.

He told investigators that he had not used performance-enhancing drugs or processes since 2006, a point where he was accomplished enough to ride clean and respected enough to start convincing other riders, particularly young ones, to avoid doping.

Since stopping his drug use, Hincapie said he has been “working hard within the sport of cycling to rid it of banned substances.”

“Thankfully, the use of performance-enhancing drugs is no longer embedded in the culture of our sport, and younger riders are not faced with the same choice we had,” he said.

He said the antidoping agency had reached out to him more recently to ask him about his doping past.

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