Lance Armstrong branded a liar, a cheat and a bully by his former teammates
THE Lance Armstrong myth has been blown to pieces by evidence exposing the seven-time Tour de France winner as a ringleader of the "most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program sport has ever seen".
The US Anti-Doping Agency released a 200-page report revealing in minute detail how Armstrong:
SURROUNDED himself with drug runners and doping doctors;
BULLIED teammates into using his methods;
REPEATEDLY lied to investigators;
PULLED out of a race to avoid a test.
No fewer than 11 teammates testified against him, leaving USADA with "no doubt that Mr Armstrong's career (from 1998-2005) was fuelled from start to finish by doping".
The report says: "Armstrong and his handlers engaged in a massive and long-running scheme to use drugs, cover their tracks, intimidate witnesses, tarnish reputations, lie to hearing panels and the press and do whatever was necessary to conceal the truth."
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Do you think Lance Armstrong is guilty?
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It adds that his goal to win the Tour de France "led him to depend on EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions but also, more ruthlessly, to expect and require that his teammates would likewise use drugs to support his goals".
The 1000-page dossier was delivered to the Swiss headquarters of cycling's world governing body, the UCI. It is based on the sworn testimony of 26 people, including 15 cyclists who were involved in, or had knowledge of, a "doping conspiracy" orchestrated by Armstrong and other leading figures in the US Postal Service team. It also uses scientific evidence and bank records.
Armstrong led the US Postal team from 1998, when he launched a comeback after recovering from cancer, to 2005, when he retired after winning a record seventh Tour.
Travis Tygart, the head of USADA, said that during this period "Armstrong acted as a ringleader and intimidated people who spoke out about doping".
It amounted, said Tygart, to a "doping conspiracy professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair advantage."
The report also alleges Armstrong paid more than $1 million to a Swiss bank account controlled by Dr Michele Ferrari, an Italian coach who has consistently been linked to doping and stands accused by USADA of administering banned products.
USADA spent five months building a case against Armstrong, his former team director and three doctors connected to his former team, including Ferrari.
Five individuals connected to the team - former director, Johan Bruyneel, Ferrari, two other doctors and Armstrong - were charged with doping offences in June and given until August 24 to respond.
Armstrong did not contest the charges, instead releasing a statement accusing USADA of a "witch hunt".
The 15 riders who testified to the agency include six active riders who have all been given reduced six-month bans for their co-operation.
Tygart said: "Lance Armstrong was given the same opportunity to come forward and be part of the solution. He rejected it."
Among the riders who testified were George Hincapie and Michael Barry. Hincapie is one of Armstrong's closest friends, and the only man who rode by his side for all seven Tour wins. Barry has ridden for Team Sky for the past three seasons. Both retired recently.
In a statement, Barry said that, when he turned professional with US Postal in 2002, he realised "doping had become an epidemic problem in cycling".
"After being encouraged by the team, pressured to perform and pushed to my physical limits, I crossed a line I promised myself and others I would not: I doped."
Christian Vande Velde, 36, added: "I was wrong to think I didn't have a choice - I did, and I chose wrong."
The testimony of Hincapie, who also released a confessional statement, is arguably the most damning. While Armstrong has dismissed others who have spoken out, such as Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, pointing out that both were discredited after failing drug tests, Hincapie has never failed a drug test or fallen foul of Armstrong. Indeed, Armstrong has described Hincapie as his "best bro in the peloton".
But yesterday, Hincapie admitted that, when approached two years ago by US government investigators, he admitted to more than just his own doping: "I understood that I was obligated to tell the truth about everything I knew. So that is what I did."
The USADA report claims that in 2010, while under federal investigation, Armstrong tried to persuade Hincapie to remain in Europe "to avoid or delay testifying". In his evidence to USADA, Hincapie revealed that, at a race in Spain in 2000, Armstrong told him he "had just taken testosterone".
Hincapie then found out that drug testers were waiting at their hotel. "I texted Lance to warn him to avoid the place. As a result, Lance dropped out of the race."
The report recounts Armstrong's and his team's use of drugs in detail. It claims that, during Armstrong's Tour victory in 2000 he, Hamilton and Kevin Livingston had a blood transfusion.
"The whole process took less than 30 minutes," Hamilton said.
The report also raises the possibility that cycling's governing body, the UCI, helped to suppress a positive test for Armstrong during the 2001 Tour of Switzerland.
USADA also accuses Armstrong of being "engaged in an effort to procure false affidavits from potential witnesses".
Armstrong has yet to respond to the USADA report, but in an interview last week he said: "My conscience is perfectly clear."