FIVE of Lance Armstrong’s former team-mates have accepted six-month doping bans from the US Anti-Doping Agency after their evidence helped strip the American of his seven Tour de France titles.
USADA said the bans imposed on George Hincapie, Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie were reduced because of “substantial assistance” supplied by the riders in relation to their investigation into Armstrong. A sixth former Armstrong team-mate, Canadian Michael Barry, also accepted the sanction, although Barry retired from the sport last month.
Ordinarily, the riders would have faced bans of at least two years for admitting the offences.
The bans have been back-dated to 1 September, 2012 and will run through six months relating to their participation in any activity or competition organised by any signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code. Each rider also had his competitive results erased for the period in which they acknowledged doping had taken place.
Meanwhile, the Italian doctor at the centre of the Armstrong scandal could be about to face criminal charges.
Padua prosecutor Benedetto Roberti has been leading a sweeping investigation of Dr Michele Ferrari for several years, parts of which were used in the USADA report.
“It’s not finished yet, but it’s coming to a close,” Roberti said of his inquiry which is believed to be investigating up to 70 people, including about 20 athletes, plus doctors, physical trainers and massage therapists. Indictments could be the next step for those identified. Doping is a crime in Italy, and Ferrari was cleared on appeal in 2006 of criminal charges of distributing banned products to athletes. But he remains barred for life by the Italian Cycling Federation under a 2002 ruling.
Armstrong acknowledged that Ferrari was his trainer until 2004, and the USADA report said the fact that “Armstrong received ‘much more than occasional advice on training”’ from Ferrari is reflected in payments made by Armstrong totalling more than a million dollars to a Swiss company controlled by the physician.