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Thursday, January 23, 2014
Man who threatened CEO sentenced

ESPN.com news services

A Florida man who sent an email threatening U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart after USADA imposed a lifetime ban from competition on cyclist Lance Armstrong was sentenced Thursday to three years' probation, 540 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine in U.S. District Court in Denver.

Retired physician Gerrit Keats, 72, pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of violating an interstate communications law.

Keats, of Clearwater, Fla., sent Tygart an email with the subject line "Nazi tragic Tygart." It was dated Oct. 24, 2012, two weeks after USADA released details of its investigation into years of organized doping by Armstrong and his teammates.

USADA banned Armstrong from cycling and by extension from all other sports that abide by the World Anti-Doping Agency's code. International cycling officials later formally stripped Armstrong of results during the period investigated by USADA, including the seven Tour de France titles he won from 1999 to 2005.

Armstrong did not contest USADA's case, and confessed to doping in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey in January 2013.

The six-paragraph email sent by Keats was filled with foul language and racist innuendo and prompted an investigation by FBI agents from Colorado and Florida.

Tygart appeared in court Thursday and read a statement outlining how difficult Keats' threat and others had been on his wife and three young children, and on the staff of USADA, based in Colorado Springs. The USADA chief told U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson that threats led him to hire private security at his home and that his children once had to run inside while playing soccer when a suspicious car approached their house.

Tygart said he and his family have accepted Keats' apology but felt he should be punished as a warning to others who feel emboldened to make threats from behind their computer screens.

"No employer should have to hold an emergency staff meeting to put its staff on notice that it has received specific and credible death threats against it," Tygart said in his statement. "No staff should have to hear that vile threats from someone like Dr. Keats have been sent through life-threatening emails shockingly describing how he wants to nail me to a tree and skin me alive while I watch my staff and children being castrated, among other heinous acts."

Tygart also referenced attempts by Armstrong and his legal team to discredit USADA's investigation.

"I do not know for certain that their intent was to elicit [Keats'] threat through their phony media ploys, however, they did shamelessly and recklessly light the match that incited him to act on his anger and threaten the lives of innocent people," Tygart said in his statement.

Keats, a urologist, sent Tygart a letter of apology in November, saying he didn't recall writing the email tirade.

"I hardly knew of Mr. Armstrong, know nothing about bike racing and personally dislike biking," the letter said. "Why I was so upset and vehement, I have yet to truly understand."

Keats' lawyer, George Tragos, said Keats sent the email while he was under the stress of caring full time for his mother-in-law, who was suffering from extreme dementia. According to a Denver Post report on the sentencing, the judge said he considered federal prison time for Keats, who could have been sentenced to five years for the crime.

"Can you imagine a doctor saying such things?" Jackson said, according to the Post.

A second man who was indicted by a federal grand jury after making emailed threats against Tygart, Robert Hutchins, 60, of Sandy, Utah, is scheduled for sentencing in February. He also pleaded guilty.

Information from ESPN.com's Bonnie Ford and The Associated Press was used in this report.