US agency says ‘serial cheat’ Lance Armstrong forced team to use drugs
LANCE Armstrong was a “serial cheat” who led “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”, the United States Anti-Doping Agency said in a remarkable statement last night.
What remained of the Texan cyclist’s reputation lies in tatters today after USADA released their ‘reasoned decision’ behind their decision to strip him of his seven Tour de France titles and hand him a lifetime ban.
Eleven of Armstrong’s former team-mates at his US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team testified against him.
According to USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, there was “conclusive and undeniable proof” of a team-run doping conspiracy.
The reasoned decision document said: “USADA has found proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Lance Armstrong engaged in serial cheating through the use, administration and trafficking of performance-enhancing drugs and methods that Armstrong participated in running in the US Postal Service Team as a doping conspiracy.
“Armstrong and his co-conspirators sought to achieve their ambitions through a massive fraud now more fully exposed. So ends one of the most sordid chapters in sports history.”
The former US Postal Service team-mates who gave evidence against Armstrong were Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.
USADA claimed Armstrong, 41, supplied banned drugs to other riders on the team, pressured them into participating in the doping programme and threatened to get them removed from the team if they refused.
The decision said: “His goal [of winning the Tour de France multiple times] led him to depend on EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions but also, more ruthlessly, to expect and to require that his team-mates would likewise use drugs to support his goals if not their own.”
It added: “It was not enough that his team-mates give maximum effort on the bike, he also required that they adhere to the doping programme outlined for them or be replaced.
“He was not just a part of the doping culture on his team, he enforced and re-enforced it. Armstrong’s use of drugs was extensive, and the doping programme on his team, designed in large part to benefit Armstrong, was massive and pervasive.”
USADA praised the “courage” shown by the 11 riders in coming forward and breaking the “code of silence”.
They said: “Lance Armstrong and his handlers engaged in a massive and long-running scheme to use drugs, cover their tracks, intimidate witnesses, tarnish reputations, lie to hearing panels and the Press and do whatever was necessary to conceal the truth.”
Armstrong has denied accusations of doping. But in August he announced he would not fight the doping charges filed against him by USADA, saying he was “finished with this nonsense” and insisting he was innocent.
USADA claimed the evidence against Armstrong was “beyond strong” and stretched to more than 1,000 pages. “It is as strong as, or stronger than, that presented in any case brought by USADA over the initial 12 years of USADA’s existence,” they said.
The organisation said it is sending its findings to the International Cycling Union, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the World Triathlon Corporation. Armstrong now competes in triathlons.
USADA alleged Armstrong’s doping programme was organised by Dr Michele Ferrari, a consultant to the US Postal Service team. Although the cyclist said he was ending his professional relationship with him after the Italian’s conviction for sporting fraud in October 2004, USADA said this did not last long.
“USADA’s witnesses and bank records obtained from Ferrari’s company demonstrate that for Lance Armstrong it was business as usual with Ferrari in 2005,” they said. USADA claimed they had uncovered evidence showing Armstrong made payments to Ferrari’s Swiss company totalling $1,029,754.31 (£643,000) between 1996 and 2006.
USADA also claimed a fridge was hidden in the closet of the master bedroom of his Girona apartment for storing bags of blood for transfusions.
USADA made allegations over Johan Bruyneel, whom Armstrong helped bring to the US Postal Service team as team director in 1999. The Belgian is in charge of the RadioShack-Nissan team. The decision said: “The overwhelming evidence in this case is that Johan Bruyneel was intimately involved in all significant details of the US Postal team’s doping programme. He alerted the team to the likely presence of testers. Most perniciously, Johan Bruyneel learned how to introduce young men to performance enhancing drugs, becoming adept at leading them down the path from newly minted professional rider to veteran drug user.”
USADA said riders claimed Bruyneel appeared to have “inside information” about the testing. Zabriskie told them: “His warning that ‘they’re coming tomorrow’ came on more than one occasion.”
USADA confirmed Ferrari and Dr Garcia del Moral have also received lifetime bans for their part in the doping conspiracy. Three further members, Bruyneel, a team doctor Dr Pedro Celaya and team trainer Jose Marti will contest the charges and take their cases to arbitration.
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