Lance Armstrong

Christophe Ena, Associated Press - Ap

Armstrong is called doping plot's kingpin

  • Article by: JULIET MACUR
  • New York Times
  • October 10, 2012 - 10:56 PM

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Wednesday released details of its investigation of Lance Armstrong, calling it the most sophisticated doping program in recent sports history -- a program in which it said Armstrong played a key role by doping, supplying doping products and demanding that his top teammates dope so he could be successful.

A 202-page account of the agency's case against Armstrong included sworn testimony from 26 people, including nearly a dozen former teammates on Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel squads who said they saw Armstrong doping to help him win every one of his record seven Tour de France titles. The file, was the most extensive, groundbreaking layout of Armstrong's alleged doping, bolstered by new interviews, financial statements and laboratory results.

The agency said the witnesses testimony was so damning that it did not need any corroborating evidence to make its case, though its report included financial payments, e-mail messages, laboratory results and scientific data that the agency said proved Armstrong cheated by using banned performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions.

In all, the agency report 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 that 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 de France as leader of the U.S. Postal Service team from 1999 to 2004 and in 2005 with the Discovery Channel as the primary sponsor.

"The USPS Team doping conspiracy was professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices," the agency said. "A program organized by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today."

Timothy Herman, one of Armstrong's lawyers, 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."

The teammates who submitted sworn affidavits included some of the best cyclists of Armstrong's generation: Levi Leipheimer, Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie, one of the most respected U.S. riders in recent history. Other teammates who came forward were Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Floyd Landis, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.

Their testimony was the most widespread effort to break the code of silence in cycling that has existed for decades. The agency said the evidence reveals "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 evidence features financial payments, e-mails, scientific analyses and laboratory test results that show Armstrong doped and was the kingpin of the doping conspiracy, the agency said. Several years of Armstrong's blood values showed evidence of doping, the report said.

"It's shocking, it's disappointing," said Travis Tygart, chief executive of the Anti-Doping Agency. He said the cyclists were part of "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."

When Armstrong decided in August not to contest the agency's charges, he agreed to forgo an arbitration hearing at which the evidence against him would have been aired, possibly publicly.

Under the World Anti-Doping Code, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was required to submit its evidence against Armstrong to the International Cycling Union, which has 21 days from the receipt of the case file to appeal the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Once it makes its decision, the World Anti-Doping Agency will have 21 days in which to appeal.

The U.S. agency has been gathering evidence on Armstrong for the past several years, with its efforts increasing after Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour title for doping, contacted Tygart in 2010. Landis told Tygart that he, Armstrong and others on the Postal Service team were involved in systematic doping.

At the same time, Armstrong became the target of a federal investigation into doping and doping-related crimes, including drug trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy.

In a statement by his lawyer, Hincapie, the only rider at Armstrong's side for his seven Tour wins, acknowledged doping and apologized for his dishonesty.

"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," said Hincapie, who retired from cycling this year after riding in a record 17th Tour. "I deeply regret that choice."

The five-time Olympian said he told investigators that he had not used performance-enhancing processes since 2006, a point when he was accomplished enough to ride clean and respected enough to start persuading other riders to avoid doping.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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