Hincapie, Leipheimer, Zabriskie & Vandevelde in alleged dope ban deal for evidence against Lance Armstrong
Jonathan Vaughters also named as witness, but he rubbishes six month rider suspension claim
Garmin-Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters has moved to deny a report from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that two of his riders, David Zabriskie and Christian Vandevelde, are among four big-name American cyclists: George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer being the other two, who will receive six-month bans from the sport after testifying against their former team mate at US Postal Service, Lance Armstrong and others including RadioShack-Nissan boss Johan Bruyneel. The newspaper also reported that Vaughters himself had also provided evidence to the US Anti-Doping Agency.
On his Twitter feed this morning, Vaughters said: “Regarding the Dutch media report: No 6mos suspensions have been given to any member of Slipstream Sports. Today or at any future date,” adding, “Which is a total buzz kill, as I was online looking at a place in Bora Bora.”
All four riders are currently participating in the Tour de France, and De Telegraaf reports that the alleged bans had been negotiated to run from the end of this season. Hincapie, who last year was reported to have provided testimony to the separate Federal Grand Jury investigation into doping that he and Armstrong both used EPO at US Postal, recently announced that he would retire after next month’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Last month, USA Cycling announced that Garmin-Sharp riders Zabriskie and Vandevelde, Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Leipheimer and BMC rider Hincapie had all made themselves unavailable for selection for the Olympic Games, with Hincapie subsequently explaining that he had done so for personal reasons.
News of their Olympic non-availabilityl came immediately after news broke that the USADA had sent a 15-page letter to Armstrong and others detailing allegations of their involvement in a “massive doping conspiracy,” with the agency saying that it at least ten professional cyclists were prepared to provide evidence, the quartet’s non-availability for London was seen as being linked to the investigation.
If true, De Telegraaf’s story, carried on its front page, would appear to confirm that.
Armstrong has consistently denied doping allegations made against him throughout his career and following his retirement, pointing out that he has never tested positive – but then, neither have any of the four cyclists named today, making it harder to dismiss their allegations, assuming they have provided testimony, as being due to jealousy or sour grapes as he and his defence team have done with Floyd Landis or Tyler Hamilton, for instance.
One thing that is unclear is where the leak has come from. The Armstrong camp has reportedly employed private investigators to assist it in its defence of the allegations against the seven time Tour de France winner and Armstrong has repeatedly called on USADA to reveal the identities of its witnesses, a move which has been consistently restisted by the organisation.
Last week USADA's Review Panel unanimously agreed that proceedings should be opened against Armstrong, Bruyneel and their co-accussed. The revelation of their identities, will presumably will lead to immediate pressure on the riders’ teams as well as Tour de France organisers ASO to exclude them from the race - a factor which may well have played a part in the calculations of whoever leaked their names.