USADA pushes Armstrong to a tight corner

USADA pushes Armstrong to a tight corner

Cycling: Team-mates reveal the dirty picture

Lance Armstrong said he wanted to see the names of his accusers. The US Anti-Doping Agency gave him 26, including 11 former teammates.

The world’s most famous cyclist said he wanted to see the hard evidence that he was a doper. The agency gave him that, too: About 200 pages filled with vivid details — from the hotel rooms that riders transformed into makeshift blood-transfusion centers to the way Armstrong’s former wife rolled cortisone pills into foil and handed them out to all the cyclists.
In all, a USADA report released on Wednesday gives the most detailed, unflinching portrayal yet of Armstrong as a man who, day after day, week after week, year after year, spared no expense — financially, emotionally or physically — to win the seven Tour de France titles that the anti-doping agency has ordered taken away.

It presents as matter-of-fact reality that winning and doping went hand-in-hand in cycling and that Armstrong was the focal point of a big operation, running teams that were the best at getting it done without getting caught. Armstrong won the Tour as leader of the US Postal Service team from 1999-2004 and again in 2005 with the Discovery Channel as the primary sponsor.

USADA said the path Armstrong chose to pursue his goals “ran far outside the rules.” It accuses him of depending on performance-enhancing drugs to fuel his victories and “more ruthlessly, to expect and to require that his teammates” do the same. Among the 11 former teammates who testified against Armstrong are George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis.

USADA Chief Executive Travis Tygart said the cyclists were part of “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen.” Armstrong did not fight the USADA charges, but insists he never cheated.

His attorney, Tim Herman, called the report “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.”

Aware of the criticism his agency has faced from Armstrong and his legion of followers, Tygart insisted his group handled this case under the same rules as any other. Armstrong was given the chance to take his case to arbitration and declined, choosing in August to accept the sanctions instead, he noted.

The report called the evidence “as strong or stronger than any case brought in USADA’s 12 years of existence.”

The testimony of Hincapie, one of Armstrong’s closest and most loyal teammates, was one of the report’s new revelations.

“I would have been much more comfortable talking only about myself, but understood I was obligated to tell the truth about everything I knew. So that is what I did,” Hincapie said to federal investigators and USADA. His two-page statement did not mention Armstrong by name.

Neither did statements from three other teammates-turned-witnesses, all of whom said this was a difficult-but-necessary process.

Tygart said evidence from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of US Postal Service team’s doping activities, provided material for the report.

Written in a more conversational style than a typical legal document, the report lays out in chronological order, starting in 1998 and running through 2009: Multiple examples of Armstrong using multiple drugs, including the blood-boosting hormone EPO, citing the “clear finding” of EPO in six blood samples from the 1999 Tour de France that were retested.

Testimony from Hamilton, Landis and Hincapie, said they received EPO from Armstrong.

IOC says it will wait and watch

Lance Armstrong will keep his 2000 Sydney Games bronze medal for now despite being accused of cheating his way to the top in cycling, the International Olympic Committee saying it is still too early to take action.

An IOC official told Reuters on Thursday: “It would be premature at this stage to say whether the IOC is contemplating any action. Should we come across any evidence that would justify opening a disciplinary procedure we would act accordingly.”

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