USADA Claiming Armstrong Doping Conspiracy Biggest In Sport

WASHINGTON, Oct 10, 2012 (AFP) – “Overwhelming” evidence shows Lance
Armstrong engaged in the biggest doping conspiracy in sports history to win
the Tour de France seven times, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said
Wednesday.

USADA chief executive Travis T. Tygart said USADA has submitted a report on
why it banned Armstrong for life in August to the International Cycling Union
(UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and released more than 1,000 pages
of supporting evidence gathered in a probe of Armstrong and the US Postal
Service team.

“The evidence of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team-run scheme is
overwhelming,” Tygart said.

“The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling
Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping
program that sport has ever seen.”

That includes testimony from 26 people, 15 of them with knowledge of US
Postal riders and doping activities, including George Hincapie, who admitted
in a statement Wednesday that he took performance-enhancing drugs.

“It’s extremely difficult today to acknowledge that during a part of my
career I used banned substances,” he said.

“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 apologize to my family,
teammates and fans.”

Other former Armstrong teammates who testified include Frankie Andreu,
Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer,
Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.

“Different categories of eyewitness, documentary, first-hand, scientific,
direct and circumstantial evidence reveal conclusive and undeniable proof that
brings to the light of day for the first time this systemic, sustained and
highly professionalized team-run doping conspiracy,” Tygart said.

Armstrong was banned for life by USADA and stripped of his seven Tour de
France triumphs from 1999-2005 after declining the chance to challenge the
doping charges against him before a USADA arbitration panel.

Armstrong, who has denied any wrongoding, said he was weary of years of
allegations against him and tired of fighting, instead hoping to focus on his
Livestrong foundation and anti-cancer fundraising activities.

The decision not to press ahead with a defense against the charges and take
the chance to contest the evidence against him came after Armstrong lost a
legal fight in US court to challenge USADA’s system of hearing doping appeals.

“Lance Armstrong was given the same opportunity to come forward and be part
of the solution. He rejected it,” Tygart said.

“Instead he exercised his legal right not to contest the evidence and
knowingly accepted the imposition of a ban from recognized competition for
life and disqualification of his competitive results from 1998 forward.”

The UCI has challenged USADA’s authority to bring charges against Armstrong
but WADA backed USADA’s jurisdiction and power to press the case.

The UCI could appeal the sanctions against Armstrong to the Court of
Arbitration for Sport.

Three US Postal team members — director Johan Bruyneel, doctor Pedro
Celaya and trainer Jose Marti — have chosen to contest the charges and face a
public hearing on the matter, likely later this year.

A letter from Armstrong attorney Tim Herman to USADA on Tuesday attacked
the report by saying it would not include all details uncovered in the probe.

“USADA will no doubt accept the stories told by Floyd Landis and Tyler
Hamilton as gospel,” Herman wrote. “A reasoned decision would include all
prior inconsistent statements by these witnesses.”

But USADA also cites such documents as financial payments and e-mails as
well as scientific data and laboratory test results to show Armstrong used and
distributed performance-enhancing drugs.

“(Evidence does) 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 said.

Tygart said the program was designed to evade detection as well as pressure
athletes into taking drugs and maintain a “code of silence” about the
activities.

“We always hoped this investigation would bring to a close this troubling
chapter in cycling’s history and we hope the sport will use this tragedy to
prevent it from ever happening again,” Tygart said.

Tygart called upon the UCI to encourage riders to reveal the truth and not
be “chained to the past forever”.

“We believe that allowing individuals to come forward and acknowledge the
truth about their past doping may be the only way to truly dismantle the
remaining system that allowed this ‘EPO and Blood Doping Era’ to flourish.

“The riders who participated in the USPS Team doping conspiracy and
truthfully assisted have been courageous in making the choice to stop
perpetuating the sporting fraud, and they have suffered greatly.”

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