COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, Aug 24, 2012 (AFP) – Iconic US cyclist Lance
Armstrong was officially branded a drugs cheat Friday by the US Anti-Doping
Agency as it stripped him of his record seven Tour de France titles.
Armstrong was also banned from cycling for life by the agency, which said
his decision not to pursue arbitration in an effort to clear himself of doping
charges leveled in June triggered the action.
“USADA announced today that Lance Armstrong has chosen not to move forward
with the independent arbitration process and as a result has received a
lifetime period of ineligibility and disqualification of all competitive
results from August 1, 1998 through the present,” USADA said in a statement.
Armstrong, a cancer survivor revered by millions for his efforts in raising
cancer awareness and supporting those stricken by the disease, won cycling’s
most prestigious race from 1999-2005.
He has long denied doping accusations but said Thursday night that he
wouldn’t pursue an arbitration process he believes is “unfair”.
“Finished with this nonsense,” Armstrong said.
“As is every athlete’s right, if Mr. Armstrong would have contested the
USADA charges, all of the evidence would have been presented in an open legal
proceeding for him to challenge,” USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said in
a statement. “He chose not to do this knowing these sanctions would
immediately be put into place.”
USADA cited “aggravating circumstances” under the World Anti-Doping Code in
issue a lifetime ban.
Such circumstances include involvement in multiple anti-doping rule
violations and participation in a sophisticated doping scheme and conspiracy
as well as trafficking, administration and/or attempted administration of a
prohibited substance or method.
USADA laid out five anti-doping rule violations for which Armstrong is
being sanctioned, beginning with “use and/or attempted use of prohibited
substances and/or methods including EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone,
corticosteroids and masking agents”.
Armstrong is also charged with possession of prohibited substances,
including the drugs and doping equipment, trafficking in EPO, testosterone,
and corticosteroids, administering or attempting to administer banned drugs to
others and “assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, covering up and other
complicity involving one or more anti-doping rule violations and/or attempted
anti-doping rule violations.”
Armstrong had attempted to block USADA’s proceedings against him with a
lawsuit, but it was dismissed on Monday. That gave him until Thursday to
respond to USADA’s charges.
“However, when given the opportunity to challenge the evidence against him,
and with full knowledge of the consequences, Mr. Armstrong chose not to
contest the fact that he engaged in doping violations from at least August 1,
1998 and participated in a conspiracy to cover up his actions,” Tygart
said. “As a result of Mr. Armstrong’s decision, USADA is required under
the applicable rules, including the World Anti-Doping Code under which he is
accountable, to disqualify his competitive results and suspend him from all
In battling doping accusations Armstrong has always pointed to the fact
that he has never failed a doping test.
Tygart said USADA built its case against him from disclosures from “more
than a dozen” witnesses who had first-hand experience of a doping conspiracy
on the part of Armstrong’s US Postal Service teams.
“As part of the investigation Mr. Armstrong was invited to meet with USADA
and be truthful about his time on the USPS team but he refused,” Tygart said.
USADA said witnesses provided evidence based on their direct observation of
doping by Armstrong, or through Armstrong’s admissions to them that he used an
array of performance-enhancing drugs including the blood booster EPO, blood
transfusions, testosterone and human growth hormone at various times during