USADA has handed lifetime bans to Dr Michele Ferrari, Dr Luis Garcia del Moral and Jose 'Pepe' Marti three of those it accused, along with along with seven time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, and Johan Bruyneel of running a systematic programme of doping centred around the United States Postal Services Cycling team and its succesors.
Dr Ferrari who should have the word 'controversial' added to his name by deed poll is now on his second lifetime ban having already been banned for life by the Italian anti-doping body CONI back in 2002.
While the news of the lifetime bans for his three former colleagues won't have come as a shock to Armstrong, given the procedural inevitability once the three had decided not to contest the charges, the fact that three of his former associates - even one as tainted as Dr Ferrari - have been banned for life for serial doping offences does inevitably ratchet up the pressure on the Texan. Yesterday Armstrong's attempt to have a restraining order imposed on USADA to stop it in turn imposing a deadline of this Saturday to either accept the sanction of a lifetime ban from sport and the loss of his seven Tour de France titles or agree to contest the charges was thrown out by a Texan judge who bluntly told Armstrong and his legal team to stop wasting the court's time.
Update: Armstrong and his legal team have since re-filed a slmmed down version of the original submission - cut from 80 pages to 25 asking once again for the court to impose a restraining order on USADA to prevent it imposing the July 14 deadline. The central strands of his argument are:
- That the USADA violates athletes' constitutional rights
- That the agency doesn't have the jurisdiction to bring the charges
- That it may have violated federal law in its investigation
Armstrong's team want the court to rule before Saturday on the matter.
While it might be argued that the three banned today had nothing much to lose by accepting their fate and avoiding costly legal bills - Ferrari's has managed to keep on attracting clients despite his first lifetime ban - the fact that three of their co-accused chose to effectively accept the evidence against them will make things harder for Armstrong and his legal team if, at the end of this week, they choose to fight the charges in a process of arbitration. These bans will make it harder for Armstrong's lawyers to start from a postion that nothing happened at USPS and that the entire USADA case is built on the envy and jealousy of embittered former teammates.
Ferrari, Del Moral and Marti were respectively training advisor, team doctor, and team trainer during USPS's Tour-winning years. Commenting on the bans USADA boss Travis Tygart said:
“Permanently banning these individuals from sport is a powerful statement that protects the current and next generation of athletes from their influence, and preserves the integrity of future competition.”
A statement on the USADA website highlights four of the charges against the three men, charges which are also laid against their co-accused Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel for which it said the lifetime bans had been imposed.
1) Possession of prohibited substances and/or methods including EPO, blood transfusions and related equipment (such as needles, blood bags, storage containers and other transfusion equipment and blood parameters measuring devices), testosterone, hGH, corticosteroids, and masking agents.
(2) Trafficking of EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, hGH, corticosteroids and masking agents.
(3) Administration and/or attempted administration of EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, hGH, corticosteroids, and masking agents.
(4) Assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, covering up and other complicity involving one or more anti-doping rule violations and/or attempted anti-doping rule violations.
Under the World Anti Doping Authority code to which both USADA and the UCI are signed up, bans longer than the standard sanction of two years can be imposed in aggravating circumstances - in this case that amounts to multiple anti-doping rule violations which said the USADA statement merited lifetime bans which will "prevents these individuals from participating in any activity or competition organized by any signatory to the Code or any member of any signatory."
Dr Ferrari has long been a controversial figure, CONI, the Italian National Olympic Committe, banned him from all involvment with sport as long ago as 2002 and any athlete caught associating with him risks a six month ban as last year's Giro d'Italia winner Michele Scarponi may yet find to his cost. Ferrari is at the centre of an ongoing Italian enquiry in to doping in cycling. Another top Italian cyclist Filippo Pozzato will miss the Olympics later this month after being charged by CONI after the rider admitted using training plans devised by the doctor.
According to the USADA indictment Dr Del Moral specialised in blood-boosting procedures in which riders had samples of their blood taken earlier in the season when richer in oxygen carrying red blood cells transfused back in to their bodies - a method of aiding recovery and boosting performance during stage races. The doctor also assisted with saline infusions that helped keep the rider's haematocrit levels below the acceptable threshold. After leaving USPS in 2003 USADA say he continued to work with cyclists including former USPS riders at his sports clinic in Valencia. USADA also found him guilty of administering EPO, human growth hormone (HGH) and cortico-steroids.
Pepe Marti who worked for Astana after his time with USPS and Dicovery was found guilty of adminstering EPO and other banned substances, as well as assisting with blood transfusions and transporting drugs and doping products to training camps, races, and rider's homes across Europe.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.