11 testified against Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong said he wanted to see the names of his accusers. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency gave him 26, including 11 former teammates.
The world's most famous cyclist said he wanted to see the hard evidence that he was a doper. The agency gave him that, too: About 200 pages filled with vivid details (PDF) -- from the hotel rooms riders transformed into makeshift blood-transfusion centers to the way Armstrong's former wife rolled cortisone pills into foil and handed them out to all the cyclists.
In all, a USADA report released Wednesday gives the most detailed, unflinching portrayal yet of Armstrong as a man who, day after day, week after week, year after year, spared no expense -- financially, emotionally or physically -- to win the seven Tour de France titles the anti-doping agency has ordered taken away.
It presents as matter-of-fact reality that winning and doping went hand-in-hand in cycling and that Armstrong was the focal point of a big operation, running teams that were the best at getting it done without getting caught. Armstrong won the Tour as leader of the U.S. Postal Service team from 1999-2004 and again in 2005 with the Discovery Channel as the primary sponsor.
USADA said the path Armstrong chose to pursue his goals "ran far outside the rules."
It accuses him of depending on performance-enhancing drugs to fuel his victories and "more ruthlessly, to expect and to require that his teammates" do the same. Among the 11 former teammates who testified against Armstrong are George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis.
It details the way those men and others say drugs were delivered and administered to Armstrong's teams. It discusses Armstrong's continuing relationship with and payments to a doctor, Michele Ferrari, years after Ferrari was sanctioned in Italy and Armstrong claimed to have broken ties with him.
USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said the cyclists were part of "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
Armstrong did not fight the USADA charges, but insists he never cheated.
Tygart said the evidence shows the code of silence that dominated cycling has been shattered.
"It took tremendous courage for the riders on the USPS Team and others to come forward and speak truthfully," he said. "It is not easy to admit your mistakes and accept your punishment. But that is what these riders have done for the good of the sport."
Armstrong's attorney, Tim Herman, called 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."
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. He pointed out that Armstrong was given the chance to take his case to arbitration and he declined, choosing to accept the sanctions instead.
"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," Tygart said.
In delivering the report to the International Cycling Union, Tygart called for the federation to create a meaningful program to help clean up the sport.
The USADA report was widely expected to pull together and amplify allegations that have followed Armstrong ever since he beat cancer and won the Tour for the first time. At various times and in different forums, Landis, Hamilton and others have said that Armstrong encouraged doping on his team and used banned substances himself.
While the arguments about Armstrong will continue among sports fans -- and there is still a question of whether USADA or UCI has ultimate control of taking away his Tour titles -- the new report puts a cap on the official investigations. Armstrong was cleared of criminal charges in February after a federal grand jury probe that lasted about two years.
Tygart 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.
"Today is a big step for the future of our sport," said Hamilton, Armstrong's teammate from 1999-2001. "Those of us who came forward and spoke openly with USADA have a responsibility to demand change and play a serious role in the solution process. There is no need to run from the truth anymore. Writing it off as 'the past' won't work. We have to be willing to go further and accept that there is a lot more to be done."
In a letter sent to USADA attorneys Tuesday, Herman 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."
Hincapie's two-page statement did not mention Armstrong by name.
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.
Written in a more conversational style than a typical legal document, the report lays out in chronological order, starting in 1998 and running through 2009:
• Multiple examples of Armstrong using the blood-boosting hormone EPO, citing the "clear finding" of EPO in six blood samples from the 1999 Tour de France that were retested. UCI concluded those samples were mishandled and couldn't be used to prove anything. In bringing up the samples, USADA said it considers them corroborating evidence that isn't necessary given the testimony of its witnesses.
• Testimony from Hamilton, Landis and Hincapie, all of whom say they received EPO from Armstrong.
• Evidence of the pressure Armstrong put on the riders to go along with the doping program.
"The conversation left me with no question that I was in the doghouse and that the only way forward with Armstrong's team was to get fully on Dr. Ferrari's doping program," Vande Velde said in his testimony.
• What Vaughters called "an outstanding early warning system regarding drug tests." One example came in 2000, when Hincapie found out there were drug testers at the hotel where Armstrong's team was staying. Aware Armstrong had taken testosterone before the race, Hincapie alerted him and Armstrong dropped out of the race to avoid being tested, the report said.
Though she didn't testify, Armstrong's ex-wife, Kristin, is mentioned 30 times in the report.
In one episode, Armstrong asks her to wrap banned cortisone pills in tin foil to hand out to his teammates.
"Kristin obliged Armstrong's request by wrapping the pills and handing them to the riders. One of the riders remarked, 'Lance's wife is rolling joints," the report read.
Attempts to reach Kristin Armstrong were unsuccessful.
Two other players in the Postal team's circle, Ferrari and Dr. Garcia del Moral, also received lifetime bans as part of the case.
Ferrari, long thought of as the mastermind of Armstrong's alleged doping plan, was investigated in Italy, and Armstrong claimed he had cut ties with him after a 2004 conviction. USADA cites financial records that show payments of at least $210,000 in the two years after that.
"The repeated efforts by Armstrong and his representatives to mischaracterize and minimize Armstrong's relationship with Ferrari are indicative of the true nature of that relationship," the report states. "If there is not something to hide, there is no need to hide it and certainly no need to repeatedly lie about it."
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.
UCI president Pat McQuaid, who is in China for the Tour of Beijing, did not respond to telephone calls from The Associated Press requesting comment.
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.
ASO, the company that runs the Tour de France and could have a say in where Armstrong's titles eventually go, said it has "no particular comment to make on this subject.