The morning after Lance Armstrong gave up his fight against doping accusations,Travis Tygart,the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency,which brought the most recent drug charges against Armstrong,received an unexpected phone call. He said it was from yet another person who was offering information about the systematic doping that the agency claims occurred on Armstrongs Tour de France-winning teams.
At the end of the day,a lot of people knew the truth,but they were silenced by the internal pressure from the team to keep everything secret, Tygart said,adding,This is the most witnesses weve ever had in any case come forward.
Tygart would not divulge the names of any of the witnesses. But one thing was clear: they were the crux of the antidoping agencys evidence against Armstrong. And in the doping world,that is known as a nonanalytical positive an athlete implicated not by a positive drug test but by supporting evidence. In recent years,it has become the new way to catch athletes who cheat.
Science cant decide everything, David Howman,director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency,said. These days,you need to complement a testing program with the gathering of evidence with other methods. To build your case,you put together strands that make one strong rope.
For more than a decade,Armstrong maintained his innocence by insisting that no drug tests ever revealed that he had doped. But this time,that argument did not hold up. The United States Anti-Doping Agency said it had built an overwhelming case against Armstrong,despite no positive test. Armstrong said the case was an unconstitutional witch hunt.
The antidoping agency said more than 10 witnesses including some of Armstrongs former teammates and allies had agreed to testify against Armstrong in a public hearing. There,the antidoping agency planned to reveal its evidence against him.
Armstrong has said those witnesses were given sweetheart deals and offers of lenient punishments regarding their own doping admissions to testify against him. Still,he pre-empted any potential embarrassment from that hearing by announcing Thursday that he would no longer contest the doping charges,a decision that was taken by antidoping officials as an admission of guilt.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency said Friday that it was sanctioning Armstrong for using the banned blood booster EPO,blood transfusions,testosterone,corticosteroids and masking agents; for trafficking EPO,testosterone and corticosteroids; and for administering those drugs to other riders. The agency also claimed he participated in a widespread cover-up of doping on his Tour-winning teams.
The agency then said it would move to expunge Armstrongs most celebrated cycling achievements his seven Tour titles and bar him for life from participating in any sport that follows the World Anti-Doping Code.
In the next several weeks,the agency is obliged to send Armstrong,the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency a detailed explanation of why it sanctioned Armstrong. Each party can then appeal the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The antidoping agency has said its evidence includes blood profiles from 2009 and 2010 that were consistent with doping,which means they showed blood results that were outside his normal range.
But how could a rider like Armstrong know how to get around the rules? His entourage his team manager,his trainer,doctors,other riders could help him negotiate it,Catlin said. The antidoping agency claims that Armstrongs network included his teammates; his longtime team manager,Johan Bruyneel; two team doctors,Pedro Celaya and Luis Garcia del Moral; the teams consulting doctor,Michele Ferrari; and the teams trainer,Pepe Marti. Those people worked together in what Tygart said was a mafia-like scheme to conceal the doping on Armstrongs teams and to keep those involved quiet about it.
Several years ago,Tygart said,he received information about the doping on Armstrongs teams,but the cases first big break happened when Floyd Landis,who was stripped of the 2006 Tour title for doping,came forward in 2010 to talk about his doping and the doping on Armstrongs United States Postal Service team in the early 2000s.
Tygart called Landis the first whistle-blower, and his revelations prompted a federal investigation that looked into Armstrongs involvement in possible doping-related crimes. (The case was dropped early this year,with no charges brought.) Other riders soon began to share their stories about the doping scheme on Armstrongs teams,both with the federal agents and the USADA.
Tyler Hamilton,who this month was stripped of his Olympic gold medal from 2004 for doping,was one of them. His book,The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping,Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs, is set for publication next month.
George Hincapie,one of the most respected and well-liked American riders in history,also came forward. He was the only rider to be at Armstrongs side for all of Armstrongs seven Tour victories. He has never admitted doping,so his testimony threatened to rock the sport.
It took others more time to come around. It really wasnt until the last few months when we were able to reach out to all the witnesses we believed had information and sit down with them, Tygart said. They all agreed to testify.
Those witnesses might not be testifying against Armstrong at his arbitration hearing,but they may be called to testify against several of Armstrongs former associates who have chosen to fight the case.
So their hearings which may be made public could reveal what the antidoping agency says are the dirty secrets on Armstrongs teams,the same secrets Armstrong would have faced if he had fought the charges.