Doping Agency Says 11 Teammates Testified Against Lance Armstrong
The United States Anti-Doping Agency has made public all the evidence it has against cyclist Lance Armstrong. This is the culmination of a battle that has raged for years: The USADA has said its evidence proves beyond doubt that the now-dethroned seven-time Tour de France winner doped, and Armstrong has always maintained his innocence.
The USADA has released about 200 pages worth of material, including the testimony of 11 of Armstrong's former teammates. We're working through the report and we'll keep this post updated. Meanwhile, here's a recap of the latest:
-- USADA says the evidence shows the US Postal Service team ran "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
In the report it says that Armstrong not only doped himself, but he required his teammates to adhere to the same kind of doping program.
-- 11 former teammates of Lance Armstrong admitted to doping.
-- Armstrong's attorney Tim Herman called the USADA's case a "one-sided hatchet job."
According to a press release previewing the more than 200 pages of documents, USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart says 11 of Armstrong's former teammates testified that Armstrong had doped.
"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," Tygart says.
Tygart goes on to say:
"The evidence also includes 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.
"Together these 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. All of the material will be made available later this afternoon on the USADA website at www.usada.org."
Armstrong has always maintained his innocence but in August decided he would not fight the charges brought against him by the USADA.
Because of that, the USADA stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles. The organization is now sending all its evidence to the Union Cycliste Internationale, which can chose to appeal the USADA's decision.
"The evidence demonstrates that the 'Code of Silence' of performance enhancing drug use in the sport of cycling has been shattered, but there is more to do," Tygart said. "From day one, 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."
There's no word yet when all the documents will go online. We'll update this post with more as it becomes available.
The report from the USADA is structured chronologically, so there is no easy way to read just one teammate's affidavit. That said, the chronological set-up makes for interesting reading.
We've skimmed a good deal of the report now, and what's clear is that the USADA provides a good deal of first-hand testimony of teammates who saw Armstrong take banned substances and were introduced to Dr. Michele Ferrari, the Italian physician portrayed as a doping genius, by Armstrong.
There is no testimony more important that that of George Hincapie, who is widely considered to be Armstrong's lieutenant on all seven of his Tour de France wins.
In his book Every Second Counts, Armstrong calls Hincape "true-blue, like a brother to me."
In Hincapie's case, he said he got on Ferrari's plan in 2000. According to the report, Hincapie asked Armstrong to introduce him to the physician. That Ferrari would put him on a doping schedule was implied and expected.
Here's a key paragraph from the report:
"According to Hincapie, at the training camp there was a discussion about blood doping and 'Dr. Ferrari said that it improved performance.' Hincapie continued the discussion about blood doping with Johan Bruyneel and Pepe Marti. Hiring Dr. Ferrari was part of the blood doping program. Hincapie agreed to hire Ferrari and was told that it would cost him $15,000 for the season. Hincapie testified that, 'Dr. Ferrari told me that the team doctors would assist me with the blood doping program and they did.' Hincapie would continue working with Dr. Ferrari until 2006, and would participate in the U.S. Postal Service blood doping program from 2001 through 2005. Hincapie had a conversation with Armstrong in 2001 about Hincapie beginning on the blood doping program. From his conversations with Armstrong and experiences with him Hincapie was aware that Armstrong used blood transfusions from 2001 through 2005."
In other parts of the report, Hincapie is quoted as saying that he witnessed Armstrong use testosteron patches and on one occasion, he used his apartment as the location for a blood transfusion.
Hincapie told investigators that shortly before the 2005 Tour de France, "I was in need of EPO and I asked Lance Armstrong if he could provide some EPO for me. Lance said that he could, and he gave me two vials of EPO while we were both in Nice, France."
From the report, here is the sweeping conclusion of the USADA:
"The evidence is overwhelming that Lance Armstrong did not just use performance enhancing drugs, he supplied them to his teammates. He did not merely go alone to Dr. Michele Ferrari for doping advice, he expected that others would follow. It was not enough that his teammates give maximum effort on the bike, he also required that they adhere to the doping program outlined for them or be replaced. He was not just a part of the doping culture on his team, he enforced and re-enforced it. Armstrong's use of drugs was extensive, and the doping program on his team, designed in large part to benefit Armstrong, was massive and pervasive."
Via The Race Radio, here is the full 200-page "reasoned decision" by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. As we told you, it is now up to the Union Cycliste Internationale if it wants to appeal the decision.
In a statement sent to USA Today, Armstrong's attorney attacked the Tygart press release.
"Tygart's statement confirms the alleged 'reasoned decision' from USADA will be a one-sided hatchet job — a taxpayer-funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat -induced stories," Herman said.
Phillip Hersh of The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times reports on Twitter that the USADA will not release 1,000 pages, instead it will be about 200 pages as previously expected.
Matt Slater of the BBC says the USADA is holding back about 800 pages because some of the USPS team members are appealing.
"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," Hincapie said. "I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologize to my family, teammates and fans."
Hincapie does not mention Armstrong by name, but he said that he cooperated with federal authorities and the USADA.
"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," he said. "So that is what I did."
This is important because in the past Armstrong has described Hincapie as a "brother to me." According to CBS News, Hincapie told federal officials that "he and Armstrong supplied each other with the endurance-boosting substance EPO and discussed having used another banned substance, testosterone, to prepare for races."
(Note, we've added a bit more of Hincapie's testimony elsewhere in this blog.)
According to Tygart, these are the teammates who testified against Armstrong and also admitted doping:
"Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie."
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
A systemic, sustained and highly professionalized, team-run doping conspiracy. That description came today from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, in its case against Lance Armstrong. The agency finally revealed the evidence it used to strip one of the country's most celebrated athletes of his titles, and ban him from professional cycling. NPR's Tom Goldman has been following the story, and joins us. Tom, welcome.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thanks. Hi.
CORNISH: So pretty damning statement there, from the agency, about Lance Armstrong. What's the evidence that this report actually describes?
GOLDMAN: Well, more than a thousand pages of evidence, and I'm not through it yet. It includes financial statements, emails, scientific data, lab test results; proving, in USADA's words - and as you mentioned there - the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that this sport has ever seen, carried out by the U.S. Postal Service team. That was the team Armstrong led during six of his seven Tour de France victories.
Now, a big part of USADA's case is from witness testimony. Twenty-six people testified, including 15 riders; 11 of them, former teammates of Armstrong's. Now, this is a significant moment, Audie, in that this really breaks the code of silence that has ruled elite cycling, and has allowed the doping to continue.
CORNISH: Let's talk more about those teammates. Who did the investigators actually talk to, and what did they say?
GOLDMAN: Well, there are familiar names - like Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis. Their statements will be viewed with skepticism, by some, because they have admitted doping after years of lying in public about it. So their credibility may be an issue. But the testimony of someone like George Hincapie will resonate. Lance Armstrong has called Hincapie a "great friend and true-blue, like a brother to me." Hincapie is the only cyclist who was with Armstrong on each of his seven Tour de France-winning teams. And Hincapie, in the public's mind, has been one of the most respected American cyclists.
In the report, he finally admits his own drug use; and tells about Armstrong's as well. Here are just a couple of examples. Hincapie testified that shortly before the 2005 Tour de France, "I was in need of EPO," which boosts red blood cell production and thus, oxygen; that's banned in cycling. "And I asked Lance Armstrong if he could provide some EPO for me. Lance said that he could, and he gave me two vials of EPO while we were both in Nice, France." Hincapie also talked about being asked by team leader Johan Bruyneel to make a drug sweep of the apartment Lance Armstrong used during the 2005 Tour de France - which he won - to make sure Armstrong didn't leave any evidence behind.
CORNISH: What happens to this information now?
GOLDMAN: Most importantly, it's being sent on to the UCI - cycling's international governing body, which has the right to appeal USADA's decision to strip Armstrong of his Tour de France titles. Now, the UCI has three weeks to decide. An appeal would go before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where a final decision is made. The UCI has to be careful here. There's an immense amount of damning evidence in this report. Plus, the UCI itself is implicated in possible cover-ups of Armstrong positive tests. So to challenge before the court, at this point, would open up the UCI to a lot of - a lot of criticism.
CORNISH: Now, Lance Armstrong has vehemently denied these charges through the years, but he's also decided not to pursue an appeal. So what's the reaction from his camp today?
GOLDMAN: More vehemence. Part of a statement from Armstrong attorney Tim Herman calls the report a "one-sided hatchet job, a taxpayer-funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat- induced stories." So they're not happy with it.
CORNISH: And Tom, what about the fallout from today's report? I mean, aside from this tarnished image and loss of championships, what does this actually mean for Lance Armstrong?
GOLDMAN: Well, he hasn't officially been stripped of his titles. That will most likely happen when this process is complete, meaning the UCI has to sign off; or, if it fights the decision and the Court of Arbitration for Sport rules against it, then the titles actually are stripped. And that would be significant. It could mean Lance Armstrong is out between -7 and $8 million. Back in the mid-2000s, he won a $7.5 million settlement, in a case that revolved around a promotion company's refusal to pay him a promised bonus for winning a number of Tour de Frances. You know, the refusal came after doping allegations surfaced against Armstrong. The settlement was based on contract language that said simply, he gets bonuses if he's listed as winning the titles - which he was, despite the doping allegations. If those titles are stripped, the company will try to reclaim the money.
CORNISH: Tom, thank you.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
CORNISH: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.