Page after page of damning details. They came from computer records,books,media reports and,maybe most significantly,the people Lance Armstrong used to train alongside and celebrate with. The people he used to call his friends.
Hit with a lifetime ban and the loss of all seven of his Tour de France titles,Armstrong challenged the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to give him the names of all his accusers. The agency obliged,listing 26,including 11 former teammates.
Armstrong said he wanted to see the hard evidence that he was a doper,and USADA gave him that,too,in the form of a 200-page tome filled with vivid recollections the hotel rooms riders transformed into makeshift blood-transfusion centers,the way Armstrong’s former wife rolled cortisone pills into foil and handed them out to the cyclists.
The report,released Wednesday,depicts what USADA chief Travis Tygart called “the most sophisticated,professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” Armstrong’s attorney called it a “one-sided hatchet job.”
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. The report called the evidence “as strong or stronger than any case brought in USADA’s 12 years of existence.” Tygart said evidence from 26 people,including 15 riders with knowledge of the US Postal Service team’s doping activities,provided material for the report.
In some ways,the USADA report simply pulls together and amplifies allegations that have followed Armstrong ever since he beat cancer and won the Tour for the first time. At various times and in different forums,Landis,Hamilton and others have said that Armstrong encouraged doping on his team and used banned substances himself.
The report lays out in chronological order,starting in 1998 and running through 2009:
Multiple examples of Armstrong using 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. The International Cycling Union (UCI) concluded those samples were mishandled and couldn’t be used to prove anything. In bringing up the samples,USADA said it considers them corroborating evidence that isn’t even necessary given the testimony of its witnesses.
Testimony from Hamilton,Landis and Hincapie,all of whom say they received EPO from Armstrong.
Evidence of the pressure Armstrong put on the riders to go along with the doping programme.
“The conversation left me with no question that I was in the doghouse and that the only way forward with Armstrong’s team was to get fully on Dr. Ferrari’s doping programme,” Vande Velde testified.
What Vaughters called “an outstanding early warning system regarding drug tests.” One example came in 2000,when Hincapie found out there were drug testers at the hotel where Armstrong’s team was staying. Aware Armstrong had taken testosterone before the race,Hincapie alerted him and Armstrong dropped out of the race to avoid being tested,the report said.
Though she didn’t testify,Armstrong’s ex-wife,Kristin,is mentioned 30 times in the report. In one episode,Armstrong asks her to wrap banned cortisone pills in foil to hand out to his teammates. The new report puts a cap on a long round of official investigations. Armstrong was cleared of criminal charges in February after a federal grand jury probe that lasted about two years.
USADA sought evidence from federal investigators,but in its report,the agency said none was ever turned over to its offices,based in Colorado Springs. UCI confirmed receiving the report and said it would respond to it soon. It has 21 days to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Some of the newest information never spelled out in detail before Wednesday includes a depiction of Armstrong’s continuing relationship with physician and training guru Michele Ferrari. Like Armstrong,Ferrari has received a lifetime ban from USADA.
The report also went to the World Anti-Doping Agency,which also has the right to appeal,but so far has supported USADA’s position in the Armstrong case. “We would like to commend USADA for having the courage and the resolve to keep focused in working on this difficult case for the sake of clean athletes and the integrity of sport,” WADA President John Fahey said.
ASO,the company that runs the Tour de France and could have a say in where Armstrong’s titles eventually go,said it has “no particular comment to make on this subject.”