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USADA Review Board recommends doping charges against Lance Armstrong and others

Eve of Tour anouncement sets stage for what is likely to be stormy arbitration hearing

Just hours before the start of the 2012 Tour de France, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has confirmed that its Review Board has unanimously recommended that formal charges be laid against Lance Armstrong, the most successful rider in the race’s history, as well as other individuals including RadioShack Nissan manager Johan Bruyneel – not present at this year’s Tour – and Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari.

In a statement sent to and other media outlets today – one could be forgiven for thinking that the timing was due to a sense of history with a long tradition of eve-of-tour doping stories – the agency said: “USADA can confirm that the independent three person Anti-Doping Review Board (ADRB) has conducted a full evaluation and has made a unanimous recommendation to move forward with the adjudication process in accordance with the rules.

“All respondents will have the opportunity to exercise their right to a full public arbitration hearing, should they so choose, where all evidence would be presented, witness testimony would be given under oath, and an independent group of arbitrators would ultimately decide the outcome of the case.

“USADA will continue to follow the established procedures that are compliant with federal law and were approved by athletes, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and all Olympic sports organizations.”

The latest development is bound to cast a shadow over this weekend’s Grand Départ of the 99th edition of the race. It raises the prospect of the 40-year-old, should he be found guilty of having taken part in what USADA alleges was a “massive doping conspiracy,” be stripped of one or more of his seven Tour de France wins; it is less than six months that the Court of Arbitration for Sport stripped Alberto Contador of his 2010 title.

Armstrong’s recent statements on the issue, plus those made on his behalf by parties including his publicist and his lawyer, suggest that he plans to fight the allegations every inch of the way, which would include what is most likely to be an explosive arbitration hearing that could be every bit as dramatic and full of twists and turns as a Grand Tour.

Commenting on the latest development, Armstrong’s attorney, Robert Lushkin, quoted in USA Today, said that the move to charge his client was “"wrong and it is baseless."

"It is the entirely predictable product of USADA's toxic obsession with Lance Armstrong and a process in which truth is not a priority," he continued. "There is not one shred of credible evidence to support USADA's charges and an unbroken record of more than 500 clean tests over more than a decade and a half to refute it."

News that USADA planned to charge Armstrong emerged earlier this month, with a 15-page letter detailing allegations – but not the names of key witnesses – sent to the rider who monopolised the top step of the Champs-Elysées podium each year from 1999 to 2005, and to others facing charges.

Armstrong vehemently denies the charges, pointing out, as he has done whenever his name has been linked to doping, that he has never tested positive, although rumours persist that a positive test during the 2001 Tour de Suisse was covered up with the help of world cycling’s governing body, the UCI.

USADA says that it has testimony from at least ten former team mates of Armstrong who are apparently prepared to testify against him, although despite the rider’s demands to know their identity, it has so far preserved their anonymity. The identity of some can probably be easily guessed at, however – Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and Frankie Andreu plus possibly George Hincapie, who was reported last year to have provided similar evidence to the now-shelved Federal Grand Jury investigation into doping centred around Armstrong and other US Postal Service team personnel.

The former cyclist, who finally retired from the sport early in 2011 and has turned his hand to Ironman triathlon events this year was due to compete in the Nice Ironman this week – he lived in the French city at the time he won his first Tour de France title following his comeback from cancer. However, he missed that event as a result of being suspended from all competition since that USADA letter was sent out a little over two weeks ago.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Lungsofa74yearold | 11 years ago

Absolutely agree - its inconceivable to me that he wasn't doping given that he was hammering all the other top riders (many of whom -Ullrich in particular springs to mind - were subsequently caught). Testing was poor to non-existent and everyone was at it. (Check the wikipedia page for riding times up Alpe d'Huez for a stark illustration of the effects of doping).

Having said all that, I think the damage is likely to be huge and to my mind is likely to outweigh the potential benefits. Also where to we stop - Indurain was riding throughout this time -his performances were pretty suspicious too. Also there's plenty of evidence about Merckx and evn admissions from Anquetil.

One good thing is that they at least they are tackling the team management and doctors, and not just the riders - this is long overdue.

Raleigh | 11 years ago

Uh Oh, looks like hes gonna be charged now  17

andrew streit1 | 11 years ago

I despise everything about Armstrong, and I hope they nail him, but even I think the self-serving people at the USADA need to think more about their actions, when we are about to start the cleanest TDF in a long time.

Jerm replied to andrew streit1 | 11 years ago

Does ''everything" include the millions he has raised for cancer charities?

andrew streit1 replied to Jerm | 11 years ago
Jerm wrote:

Does ''everything" include the millions he has raised for cancer charities?

And that is the beauty of it and the problem. On the back of all the lying, cheating and deception he has managed to create a profile that has enabled him to do some good. It is an interesting moral dilema. Is his cheating, destroying clean professionals careers, justifiable when the money he has made from cycling as a tour de force, has enabled him help many others?

His utter dominance, on the suspicion of using drugs, has perpetuated the notion that people needed to take drugs to beat him. People such as Pantani, VDB etc, have died from taking drugs. As David Millar points out in his book, he has a duty to prevent this from happening to other people, from people's lives and families being destroyed because of the use of drugs in something as seemingly trivial as sport.

Indeed, there is a section in his book towards the end in which he challenges Lance to help move the sport on. But he wasn't interested.

Ultimately, the cancer though ultimately conflates the issue. Did he cheat. That is what he is on trial for. You need to seperate the issues.

When he is convicted, at least he can fall back on the cancer. His fall from grace will be larger than Tiger Woods though I suspect. It will prove to be a high price to pay.

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