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Updated: Wednesday, 17 Oct 2012, 8:51 AM CDT
Published : Wednesday, 10 Oct 2012, 9:03 AM CDT
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says 11 of Lance Armstrong's former teammates testified against him in its investigation of the cyclist, revealing "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
"The evidence of the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team-run scheme is overwhelming and is in excess of 1,000 pages, and includes sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the US Postal Service Team and its participants’ doping activities," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a news release posted on the agency's website Wednesday.
He said 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 Armstrong.
"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," the statement continued.USADA said it plans to post a summary of the facts it used to hand him a lifetime suspension and erase his seven Tour de France titles online later in the day.
Tygart said the report would include more than 1,000 pages of evidence. He listed 11 of Armstrong's former teammates, including George Hincapie, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, as among those providing evidence that led to the sanction.
Armstrong spokesman Mark Fabiani declined immediate comment, referring to a letter the cyclist's attorney sent to USADA on Tuesday.
The letter accused USADA of acting as "prosecutor, judge, jury, appellate court and executioner" in issuing a "biased, one-sided and untested version of events." It also renewed Armstrong's assertion that witnesses, particularly riders, were offered deals of reduced punishments in exchange for their testimony against him.
Aware of the criticism it has faced from Armstrong and his legion of followers, Tygart insisted USADA handled this case under the same rules as any other.
"We focused solely on finding the truth without being influenced by celebrity or non-celebrity, threats, personal attacks or political pressure because that is what clean athletes deserve and demand," he said.
In delivering the report to the International Cycling Union (UCI), Tygart called for the federation to create a meaningful program to help clean up the sport.
Tygart said the evidence shows the code of silence that dominated cycling has been shattered.
He said evidence from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the U.S. Postal Service Team's doping activities, provided material for the report. It was with the USPS team that Armstrong won all but one of his Tour titles from 1999-2005.
Other cyclists named in the news release were Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.
In the letter to USADA attorneys, Armstrong's attorney dismissed any evidence provided by Landis and Hamilton, calling them "serial perjurers and have told diametrically contradictory stories under oath."
Hincapie's role in the investigation could be more damaging, as he was one of Armstrong's closest and most loyal teammates through the years.
"Two years ago, I was approached by U.S. federal investigators, and more recently by USADA, and asked to tell of my personal experience in these matters," the cyclist said in a statement published shortly after USADA's release. "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. So that is what I did."
Tygart said all the facts in the Armstrong case and the cases of six other riders targeted in USADA's investigation would be made available on the agency's website later Wednesday.
Two other players in the Postal team's circle, Dr. Michele Ferrari and Dr. Garcia del Moral, also received lifetime bans as part of the case.
Three other members of the USPS team will take their cases to arbitration. They are team director Johan Bruyneel, team doctor Pedro Celaya and team trainer Jose "Pepe" Marti.
Armstrong chose not to pursue the case and instead accepted the sanction, though he has persistently argued that the USADA system was rigged against him, calling the agency's effort a "witch hunt" that used special rules it doesn't follow in all its other cases.
The UCI has asked for details of the case before it decides whether to sign off on the sanctions. The federation has 21 days to appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
USADA has said it doesn't need UCI's approval and Armstrong's penalties already are in place.
The report also will go to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which also has the right to appeal, but so
In question-and-answer form, here's a look at where things stand:
What evidence will be in the report?
Armstrong strongly denies doping, but USADA officials have said their report will back up the move to sanction one of the most popular athletes in America.
USADA has said it had 10 former teammates ready to testify against Armstrong before he chose not to take his case to an arbitration hearing. The list likely includes previous Armstrong accusers Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton. The sport will be watching closely to learn who else was willing to testify.
Exactly how detailed the evidence will be is unknown. One complicating factor: Former U.S. Postal Service team director Johan Bruyneel also has been charged with participating in the alleged doping conspiracy and has elected to take his case to arbitration. A USADA spokeswoman has declined to say if the Bruyneel case includes the same witnesses and if the pending hearing limits what can be included in the Armstrong report.
Who has the authority to strip Armstrong of his Tour de France titles?
USADA says it does under the authority of the World Anti-Doping Code. The UCI says it wants to see USADA's report.
The World Anti-Doping Code gives the cycling union the right to appeal the sanctions against Armstrong that impact the world's most prestigious bike race — and some fireworks between the agencies are expected. The UCI has clashed with USADA over the Armstrong case, even challenging its authority to bring charges.
Once UCI gets the report, what happens?
UCI has been critical of USADA for taking so long, but once the report arrives, the cycling union will have 21 days to appeal to the world Court of Arbitration for Sport. The report also will go 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've got no problem with the process they have followed," WADA general director David Howman said. "We've just got to be patient and be quiet until the decision comes to hand."
Armstrong's lawyers say USADA should send UCI its entire case file, not just a streamlined report packaged to support USADA's decision. In a letter to the agency on Tuesday, Armstrong attorney Tim Herman accused USADA of "still trying to create evidence and put it in the file now," long after it supposedly had an airtight case.
What do Tour de France officials say about the possibility of stripping the titles?
The Tour has been silent while waiting for direction from UCI. It would be awkward for the world's most popular bike race to have to erase the name of a seven-time champion.
In previous cases, Tour organizers have taken a back seat in stripping the titles. When Alberto Contador tested positive for clenbuterol during the 2010 race, the UCI first left the case to the Spanish Cycling Federation. The Spanish body exonerated him, so UCI and WADA appealed and won a two-year ban and annulment of results, including the Tour title.
In 2006, Floyd Landis was stripped of his title by an American arbitration panel.
Will Armstrong push the UCI to appeal?
It depends on how determined he is to see his name in the record books. Armstrong built worldwide brands for himself and his cancer-fighting foundation on the strength of those Tour victories.
But an appeal could mean many more months or years defending himself against constant allegations. He chose to drop his fight in August and may be willing to give it up forever.
Armstrong continues to introduce himself as a seven-time Tour de France winner, but has also said the public will remember his as a champion even if his titles are stripped.
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