Connect with Us:  

Armstrong: Hardcore Cheat, Say Teammates

Oct 11, 2012  - Craig Lord

Hundreds of world-class swimmers (and the federations that publish their details on websites and in guide books) around the world today may find themselves in need of revisiting their official biographies after US authorities ran a sword through the career and reputation of the American cyclist Lance Armstrong.

A"hero" and "inspiration" to so many because of his battle against cancer, Armstrong is today described as a serial cheat, a report from US anti-doping authorities running to 1000 pages and, backed by the evidence of 11 former teammates who say they saw it all unfold, accuse the multi-Tour de France winner as having used  banned substances, run a trafficking operation and administered drugs to teammates who he was said to have bullied into doping.

Armstrong's United States Postal Service (USPS) Pro Cycling team "ran the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen", the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) proclaims in its report. State Plan 14:25 presumably slips to second on the basis that some GDR athletes - no swimmers - produced positive tests beyond the secret results marked "for internal consumption only" at the IOC-accredited laboratory in Kreischa back in the 1970s and 1980s.  

Travis T Tygart, USADA's chief executive, says there is "conclusive and undeniable proof" of a team-run doping conspiracy centred on Armstrong, who forfeited all seven Tour titles he won after refusing to contest the doping charges he faced.

USADA has now sent its "reasoned decision" on Armstrong to the International Cycling Union (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the World Triathlon Corporation. The UCI, a body that tested the man 60 times but found nothing, faces serious questions about its competence and claims by at least one former head of the federation, current IOC member, Hein Verbruggen, that Armstrong "never, never, never" doped.

What he should have said, according to the conclusions of the USADA report, is that Armstrong "never, never, never" failed a UCI test. Even then, such words would, it seems, count for nothing more than a confirmation that true testing regime has failed, as it did with Marion Jones and many other winners on a big world sports stage.

The evidence on Armstrone, Tygart says, is "overwhelming". It contains "direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, 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 adds that USPS 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".

Sworn testimony was provided by 26 people. Armstrong has always denied any involvement in doping or banned practices. As such, he stands at odds with at least 26 people who worked closely to him in the world of cycling.

Among them were Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, the latter having been stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title in 2010 after charges of doping. Add to their testimony the evidence provided by  Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.

Barry, on his website www.michaelbarry.ca, announced: "After being encouraged by the team, pressured to perform and pushed to my physical limits I crossed a line I promised myself and others I would not: I doped. It was a decision I deeply regret. It caused me sleepless nights, took the fun out of cycling and racing, and tainted the success I achieved at the time. This was not how I wanted to live or race."

The 36-year-old Canadian, who rode for the USPS team from 2002 to 2006 and continues to race, these days for Sky, added: "I apologise to those I deceived. I will accept my suspension and any other consequences. I will work hard to regain people's trust."

Hincapie, 39, raced with USPS for 10 years until 2007. He is described as a close friend of Armstrong's and is no longer cycling, having retired a couple of months ago.

In a statement on his website www.georgehincapie.com, Hincapie says: "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. 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 apologise to my family, teammates and fans. Quietly, and in the way I know best, I have been trying to rectify that decision."

Saying that he competed clean for the past six years, Hincapie adds: "During this time, I continued to successfully compete at the highest level of cycling while mentoring young professional riders on the right choices to make to ensure that the culture of cycling had changed. About two years ago, I was approached by US Federal investigators, and more recently by USADA, and asked to tell of my personal experience in these matters. I would have been much more comfortable talking only about myself, but understood that I was obligated to tell the truth about everything I knew. So that is what I did. As I begin the next chapter in my cycling life, I look forward to playing a significant part in developing, encouraging and helping young riders to compete and win with the best in the world."

Tygart praised the riders who came forward for showing "tremendous courage" by coming forward to "stop perpetuating the sporting fraud". He added: "I have personally talked with and heard these athletes' stories and firmly believe that, collectively, these athletes, if forgiven and embraced, have a chance to leave a legacy far greater for the good of the sport than anything they ever did on a bike. Lance Armstrong was given the same opportunity to come forward and be part of the solution. He rejected it. Instead he exercised his legal right not to contest the evidence and knowingly accepted the imposition of a ban from recognised competition for life and disqualification of his competitive results from 1998 forward."

The USADA boss called on the UCI to "act on its own recent suggestion for a meaningful Truth and Reconciliation programme" and thus "unshackle itself from the past".

Tygart says: "We have heard from many athletes who have faced an unfair dilemma - dope, or don't compete at the highest levels of the sport. Many of them abandoned their dreams and left sport because they refused to endanger their health and participate in doping. That is a tragic choice no athlete should have to make."

In its pronouncement, USADA confirmed two members of the USPS team, Dr Michele Ferrari and Dr Garcia del Moral, received lifetime bans for their role in the doping conspiracy. Team director Johan Bruyneel, a team doctor Dr Pedro Celaya and team trainer Jose Marti are contesting the charges, their cases headed to arbitration.

USADA will publish its report, with all evidence gathered, on its website.