Millions of his fans didn’t want to believe it. He himself repeatedly and vehemently denied it.
But apparently, if the (www.documentcloud.org) is accurate (and there’s no reason to assume it’s not), then it’s true: Cycling “hero” and “legend” Lance Armstrong is nothing more than a cheat.
The report – a 202-page indictment of Armstrong’s career – accused him of being part of “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
The charges, all backed up with substantial evidence, put a huge red circle with a line through the center over Armstrong’s seven Tour de France wins.
The evidence the agency accumulated against the entire U.S. Postal Service-sponsored team to which Armstrong belonged involves “direct documentary evidence including financial payments, e-mails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance-enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong,” said the report.
The allegations, which follow an announcement Aug. 24 from the USADA in which the agency “imposed a sanction of lifetime ineligibility and disqualification of competitive results” achieved by Armstrong since Aug. 1, 1998 – effectively stripping the cyclist of his titles – are backed up by a multitude of evidence, including 11 riders who the agency said came forward “to acknowledge their use of banned performance-enhancing drugs while on the team,” CNN reported.
One of the witnesses is George Hincapie, a close teammate of Armstrong’s during his Tour de France winning streak.
“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 said in a statement.
I’m not suggesting they are all lying, but…
“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,” added USADA chief executive Travis Tygart added.
Pretty damning stuff.
In explaining the charges, the report said:
This Reasoned Decision includes a summary of the overwhelming evidence that demonstrates that Mr. Armstrong doped through the majority of his professional cycling career. Among the evidence in this case are the sworn statements of more than two dozen (24+) witnesses, including fifteen (15) professional cyclists, and a dozen (12) members of Armstrong’s cycling teams, including eleven (11) former teammates and his former soigneur (masseuse). Nine (9) of the professional cyclists were, like Mr. Armstrong, clients of Dr. Michele Ferrari and have firsthand knowledge of his doping practices.
Not surprising, Armstrong’s lawyer, Tim Herman, dismissed the report as a “one-sided hatchet job” that resulted from a “government-funded witch hunt.” He went on to question the veracity of some of the witnesses against his client.
“I’m not suggesting that they are all lying, but I am suggesting that each witness needs to have confrontation and cross examination to test the accuracy of their recollection,” Herman told CNN.
Armstrong has said, in essence, Hey – I’ve never failed a doping test, so I’m innocent. Yet, according to the report, many of those who talked to the USADA explained how Armstrong was far from innocent, and instead merely figured out a way to beat the tests or, often, avoid test administrators altogether.
‘Tens of millions’ in taxpayer dollars
In further summarizing its evidence against the cheating cyclist, the USADA said it had obtained “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,” said the report.
No word yet on whether Armstrong and Co. will have to repay the “tens of millions” in taxpayer dollars.
In addition to Hincapie, six of the 11 other active riders who testified against Armstrong – Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie – were given six-month suspensions.
It obviously took getting caught to admit to it, but Hincapie, for the first time, has confessed to doping early and, apparently, often.
“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,” he said. “I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologize to my family, teammates and fans.”
Hincapie testified that Armstrong specifically used the drug EPO, or erythropoietin, which boosts the number of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to tissues; in Armstrong’s case, the drug carried boosted red blood cells so they could carry more oxygen to the muscles. In addition, the teammate said, Armstrong utilized blood transfusions.
Goal was to win ‘greatest bike race’ and win it often
Also, he said, Armstrong dropped out of a race in 2000 over fears he would test positive for drugs.
Red flags went up regarding the highly competitive Armstrong’s possible guilt in recent weeks, when he refused to take part in a USADA arbitration proceeding in August, in which the USADA said it planned to feature eyewitnesses – no doubt some who are mentioned in the just-released report – against him.
The agency mentioned that in its report:
While this Reasoned Decision summarizes overwhelming evidence of Mr. Armstrong’s doping that would have been at the hearing had Mr. Armstrong not refused to challenge the charges against him, it necessarily cannot include all of the evidence that would have been presented at such a hearing. Had there been a hearing even more evidence would have been presented, including evidence obtained through arbitration panel subpoenas and potentially evidence from government investigations.
Unmoved, Armstrong tweeted Wednesday night, “What am I doing tonight? Hanging with my family, unaffected, and thinking about this…”
Rules mandated by the World Anti-Doping Code guided the USADA to release a detailed report regarding its charges and allegations against Armstrong, especially any evidence it had.
The agency noted that Armstrong had help:
As discussed in this Reasoned Decision, Mr. Armstrong did not act alone. He acted with a small army of enablers, including doping doctors, drug smugglers and others within and outside the sport and on his team. However, the evidence is also clear that Armstrong had ultimate control over not only his personal drug use, which was extensive, but also over the doping culture of his team. Final responsibility for decisions to hire and retain a director, doctors and other staff committed to running a team-wide doping program ultimately flowed to him.
The agency noted that Armstrong himself, at one point, declared that “we had one goal and one ambition and that was to win the greatest bike race in the world and not just win it once but keeping winning it.”
No matter what it took, obviously.