USADA: Evidence against Armstrong overwhelming; Greenvilles Hincapie admits doping
NEW YORK - Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service cycling team conducted “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,” the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said.
The agency said in an e-mailed statement by Travis Tygart, its chief executive officer, that it had compiled more than 1,000 pages of evidence against Armstrong and the team, which will be sent Wednesday to the International Cycling Union, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the World Triathlon Corp.
The files contains “direct documentary evidence including financial payments, e-mails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance-enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong and confirm the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS Team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding,” Tygart said.
It also includes sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the U.S. Postal team’s doping activities, Tygart said. Among the riders USADA interviewed was George Hincapie, Armstrong’s teammate for each of his record seven Tour de France victories from 1999 to 2005, as well as teammates Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters, and David Zabriskie.
Tygart said any active cyclist in the group had been suspended and disqualified “appropriately in line with the rules.”
Armstrong has consistently denied using performance- enhancing drugs or otherwise violating anti-doping rules. Timothy Herman, a lawyer for Armstrong, said Wednesday in an e- mailed statement that the USADA file “will be a one-sided hatchet job” and labeled the process “a government-funded witch hunt.”
Hincapie posted a statement on his website Wednesday saying he used performance-enhancing drugs prior to riding “clean” for the last six years. He never had been publicly linked with the use of performance enhancers.
“Because of my love for the sport, the contributions I feel I have made to it, and the amount the sport of cycling has given to me over the years, it is extremely difficult today to acknowledge that during a part of my career I used banned substances,” Hincapie said in the statement. “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.”
The cycling union, the federation that oversees the sport and goes by the French acronym of UCI, the World Anti-Doping Agency, known as WADA, and the triathlon corporation, or WTC, have the right to appeal USADA’s findings to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the top court for athletic disputes. Armstrong switched to triathlon after retiring from cycling.
Armstrong, 41, was banned for life from competitive cycling and all other Olympic-related sports and stripped of his Tour de France titles on Aug. 23 after opting not to fight USADA’s drug allegations.
Pat McQuaid, the president of UCI, has questioned USADA’s delay in sending its files in the Armstrong case, saying at a news conference on Sept. 22 that “they’ve already made a decision based on it and therefore it’s difficult to understand why it hasn’t arrived yet.”
Armstrong, three doctors and two officials from his former U.S. Postal Service cycling team were notified by USADA in June that they had been accused of using and trafficking in performance-enhancing drugs.
Before to the August ban, UCI supported Armstrong’s argument that USADA didn’t have jurisdiction over his drug tests and the disciplinary actions taken against him. The Swiss-based UCI asked a U.S. judge for a neutral and independent body to oversee any doping case.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas, dismissed Armstrong’s lawsuit seeking to block USADA’s investigation on Aug. 20, while saying he was troubled by the drug agency’s efforts to target the cyclist.
Armstrong has said he has undergone at least 500 drug tests and never failed one, a stand that is contradicted by Hamilton in the book “The Secret Race.” Hamilton alleges that the sport was rife with doping, including use of testosterone, erythropoietin -- a red blood cell-boosting substance known as EPO - and transfusions to increase riders’ energy levels.
“Yes, Lance Armstrong tested positive for EPO at the Tour of Switzerland,” Hamilton wrote about the 2001 race. “I know because he told me.”
Hamilton said he used EPO, which the riders nicknamed “Edgar” or “Poe.” He wrote that he was using the drug until just before the Tour of Switzerland and stopped because authorities had developed a new drug test. Armstrong continued his use and didn’t act worried after the positive test, Hamilton wrote.
“No worries, dude,” Armstrong said, according to Hamilton. “We’re gonna have a meeting with them. It’s all taken care of.”
The Lausanne, Switzerland, laboratory that tested the sample termed it “suspicious” and “consistent with EPO use,” according to a 2011 report by CBS Corp.’s “60 Minutes.”
The television news program also reported that Armstrong met with the lab’s director, Martial Saugy, at the prompting of UCI. Armstrong later donated $125,000 to UCI for drug-testing equipment, with the governing body denying it was in return for ignoring a positive test, according to the Telegraph newspaper of Britain.
Herman said in his statement that the USADA decision was “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.”
“Ignoring the 500-600 tests Lance Armstrong passed, ignoring all exculpatory evidence, and trying to justify the millions of dollars USADA has spent pursuing one, single athlete for years, USADA has continued its government-funded witch hunt of only Mr. Armstrong, a retired cyclist, in violation of its own rules and due process, in spite of USADA’s lack of jurisdiction, in blatant violation of the statute of limitations, and without honoring UCI’s demand to produce the entire USADA ‘file’ for an independent review and decision as mandated by national and international rules,” Herman said.