The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has formally charged Lance Armstrong and five other individuals, among them current RadioShack-Nissan team manager Johan Bruyneel and sports doctor Michele Ferrari, in connection with doping charges related to the period 1998 and 2011.
Armstrong has been suspended from competition with immediate effect, including from triathlon, a sport in which he has been enjoying some success recently. The 40-year-old, if found guilty, could ultimately lose all seven of the Tour de France titles he amassed between 1998 and 2005 after overcoming cancer. It is not yet clear whether the other individuals charged, such as Bruyneel are immediately suspended from involvment with the sport. The tone of the UCI's statement on the matter (see below) suggests not, but all face lengthy bans if found guilty of the charges and there has to be a chance that Johan Bruyneel will find himself persona non grata at the Tour de France this year if ASO's previous reaction to those mired in doping controversy is anything to go by.
According to the Washington Post, USADA sent a 15-page letter (you can download the full version at the bottom of this article) dated yesterday detailing the charges that Armstrong and the others face to those individuals, alleging that they "engaged in a massive doping conspiracy from 1998-2011."
In February this year, a Federal Grand Jury investigation into Armstrong and other former riders and staff of the US Postal Team was officially shelved, although more recent reports suggest that some enquiries are continuing, with reports that Bruyneel was served with a subpoena in connection with that investigation earlier this week on a trip to the US.
While the Grand Jury investigation dealt only with matters relating to the period when Armstrong was racing with US Postal and not his return to the sport with Astana in 2009 – he and Bruyneel would launch the RadioShack team at the end of that year – that period following his comeback has evidently been very much part of the focus of the USADA enquiry.
Indeed, the agency claims that blood samples collected from Armstrong during 2009 and 2010 were “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”
In a strongly worded statement published on his website, Armstrong said: “I have been notified that USADA, an organization largely funded by taxpayer dollars but governed only by self-written rules, intends to again dredge up discredited allegations dating back more than 16 years to prevent me from competing as a triathlete and try and strip me of the seven Tour de France victories I earned.
"These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation," he continued. "These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity.
"Although USADA alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy extended over more than 16 years, I am the only athlete it has chosen to charge. USADA’s malice, its methods, its star-chamber practices, and its decision to punish first and adjudicate later all are at odds with our ideals of fairness and fair play.
Armstrong added: "I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one. That USADA ignores this fundamental distinction and charges me instead of the admitted dopers says far more about USADA, its lack of fairness and this vendetta than it does about my guilt or innocence."
In a statement, world cycling's governing body, the UCI, confirmed "that it has been informed by USADA of its decision to open anti-doping cases against a number of rider support personnel and a rider," without naming the individuals concerned, and said "this is the first time USADA has communicated to UCI on this subject."
The UCI went on to say that it was "not aware of the information that is available to USADA on the persons concerned and has not been involved in the proceedings opened by USADA," and added that it would "follow the case to the extent it will be informed and has noted that the persons concerned have been invited to send submittals on the allegations that are made against them."
While it's clear that the process has a long way to run, and certainly the language coming from the Armstrong camp suggests that he intends to fight the allegations every inch of the way, the charges from USADA do open up some intriguing 'what ifs?'
Should he be stripped of all his results from 1998 to 2011, for instance, Jan Ullrich would become winner of the 2000, 2001 and 2003 Tour de France, although he himself was stripped earlier this year by the Court of Arbitration for Sport of all results obtained from 1 May 2005, including third place in the 2005 Tour, Armstrong's seventh and final victory.
Also potentially becoming recipients of the maillot jaune would be Alex Zulle for 1998, Joseba Beloki (2002), Andreas Kioden (2004) and Ivan Basso (2005).
Britain's Bradley Wiggins would also be in line to step up to the 2009 podium, when he finished fourth behind Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck and Armstrong.
Statement From USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart Regarding Us Postal Service Cycling Team Notice Of Doping Allegations
June 13, 2012
“In response to numerous inquiries regarding the public statements made by Mr. Lance Armstrong, we can confirm that written notice of allegations of anti-doping rule violations was sent yesterday to him and to five (5) additional individuals all formerly associated with the United States Postal Service (USPS) professional cycling team. These individuals include three (3) team doctors and two (2) team officials. This formal notice letter is the first step in the multi-step legal process for alleged sport anti-doping rule violations.
USADA only initiates matters supported by the evidence. We do not choose whether or not we do our job based on outside pressures, intimidation or for any reason other than the evidence. Our duty on behalf of clean athletes and those that value the integrity of sport is to fairly and thoroughly evaluate all the evidence available and when there is credible evidence of doping, take action under the established rules.
As in every USADA case, all named individuals are presumed innocent of the allegations unless and until proven otherwise through the established legal process. If a hearing is ultimately held then it is an independent panel of arbitrators, not USADA that determines whether or not these individuals have committed anti-doping rule violations as alleged.
At this time USADA will not comment on the evidence or have further comment unless or until it is appropriate.”
A downloadable copy of the 15 page letter detailing the USADA charges against Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel and the others is attached below
The UCI responded to the news of USADA's decision to charge Armstrong, Bruyneel and their alleged assoicates with a short statement of its own that amounted to 'no comment' in 112 words.
UCI Press Statement
The UCI confirms that it has been informed by USADA of its decision to open anti-doping cases against a number of rider support personnel and a rider .
This is the first time USADA has communicated to UCI on this subject.
The UCI is not aware of the information that is available to USADA on the persons concerned and has not been involved in the proceedings opened by USADA.
The UCI will follow the case to the extent it will be informed and has noted that the persons concerned have been invited to send submittals on the allegations that are made against them.
The UCI will not comment futher at this stage.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.