'Overwhelming' evidence in Armstrong doping case: USADA
Published Tuesday, October 9, 2012 3:38PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 10, 2012 10:02PM EDT
The United States Anti-Doping Agency released vivid details and damaging testimony against Lance Armstrong and his teammates on Wednesday in what is described as one of the most sophisticated and successful doping programs the sport of cycling has ever seen.
The agency released more than 200 pages that detail the charges and evidence brought against Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team he led to multiple Tour de France titles. The report includes sworn testimony from 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates.
It was with the USPS team that Armstrong won all but one of his tour titles from 1999-2005.
The evidence presented by the USADA, which includes testimony from 26 individuals including 15 cyclists, depicts Armstrong as a central figure in the doping scandal who pressured his teammates to take performance-enhancing drugs to fuel their victories.
The report called the evidence "as strong or stronger than any case brought in USADA's 12 years of existence."
Armstrong did not fight the USADA charges, but insists he never cheated.
A number of Armstrong’s former teammates, including Toronto cyclist Michael Barry, spoke out about the USADA findings on Wednesday, admitting that they needed the drugs to stay competitive.
“I caved in to peer pressure. I was pushed to my physical limits and I turned to doping because it was acceptable to the team in that environment,” Barry told CTV News Channel. “There were many, many ways that we could justify it, but in the end we were cheating.”
Barry said he spoke out about doping after living with the guilt for several years.
“It was a good thing to do, to come clean and move forward in the right direction and get rid of the culture of doping in the sport.”
The USADA posted its reasoned decision against Armstrong on its website Wednesday afternoon, which includes the evidence it used to hand him a life suspension and erase his titles. In August the agency banned the seven-time Tour de France winner from the sport and declared his victories null and void, after the world champion announced he would not fight the charges.
His lawyer, 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."
However, the USADA insists is has handled Armstrong’s case under the same rules as it would any other case.
USADA Chief Executive Travis Tygart described the USPS Team doping conspiracy as a professionally designed scheme in which athletes were pressured to use dangerous drugs, ensure secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage.
“A program organized by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today,” he described.
The statement also refers to a “code of silence” revolving around the use of drugs in cycling which has now been shattered.
“From day one, we always hoped this investigation would bring to a close this troubling chapter in cycling’s history and we hope the sport will use this tragedy to prevent it from ever happening again,” said Tygart.
While allegations of doping have long-followed Armstrong, some say new details that emerged in the USADA’s findings are the most damaging to the world champion.
“That’s what makes this worse,” Matthew Cauz of TSN Radio told CTV News on Wednesday. “These new allegations are far worse against Lance because there's tales he was pressuring new members of the team.
“It’s a much bigger hit against Lance Armstrong, against his reputation and quite frankly his legacy.”
Along with Barry, other cyclists named in the news release include Frankie Andreu, Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters, David Zabriskie, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis and George Hincapie.
In a letter sent to USADA lawyers 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.
Shortly after the USADA’s statement was published Hincapie published his own statement.
"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," he wrote. "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.
All the evidence in the case against Armstrong and six other riders targeted in the USADA’s investigation is available on the agency’s website.
Team direction Johan Bruyneel, doctor Pedro Celaya and trainer Jose (Pepe) Marti have said they will take their cases to arbitration.
Armstrong chose not to pursue the case and instead accepted the sanction.
He has persistently argued that the USADA system was rigged against him and called the agency's effort a "witch hunt" that used special rules it doesn't follow in all its other cases.
The Union Cycliste Internationale has asked the USADA for details of the case before it signs off on the sanctions imposed on Armstrong and his teammates. However, the USADA has said it doesn't need UCI's approval and the penalties against Armstrong are already in place.
There remains the question of whether the USADA or the UCI has the ultimate authority to take away Armstrong’s Tour titles.
The report also will go to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which also has the right to appeal, but has so far supported USADA's position in the Armstrong case.
With files from The Associated Press