The US Anti-Doping Agency, which in August banned defiant cyclist Lance Armstrong for life and stripped him of his record seven Tour de France titles, released a detailed report Wednesday with sworn testimony from nearly a dozen of his former teammates supporting the agency’s charge that the sport’s most celebrated and controversial star was at the center of “the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
The USADA said in its 200-page “reasoned decision” that it had 1,000 pages of evidence from 26 people, including eyewitness accounts, financial payments, scientific data, laboratory tests, and e-mails that showed beyond doubt that Armstrong “had ultimate control over not only his own personal drug use, which was extensive, but also over the doping culture of his team.”
Besides Marblehead native Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie — two of Armstrong’s former wingmen — Floyd Landis, Frankie Andreu, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie, Jonathan Vaughters, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, and Stephen Swart also testified.
“Every one of USADA’s witnesses struggled to some degree with the decision to come forward,” said Travis Tygart, the agency’s chief executive officer. “Virtually all were subject to cycling’s omerta [i.e. code of silence] at one time or another.”
The six active cyclists reportedly have received minimum six-month suspensions and erasure of results, which in some instances dated to 2003. Four of them — Hincapie, Leipheimer, Vande Velde, and Zabriskie — asked not to be considered for this year’s US Olympic team, which led to speculation that they were involved in the case.
“I would have been much more comfortable talking only about myself, but understood that I was obligated to tell the truth about everything I knew,” Hincapie said in a statement. “So that’s what I did.”
Hamilton, who had his Olympic gold medal from the 2004 Games stripped in August and also had been banned for life, provided what he called “the full Monty” about Armstrong and his US Postal Service team in the recently published “The Secret Race,” which he co-authored with Daniel Coyle.
“People can read it and believe me or not believe me,” Hamilton told the Globe last month. “It was an ugly world we went through. I’m proud of not holding anything back, but it’s a sad story.”’
After Hamilton told that story on “60 Minutes,” he said that Armstrong vowed to make his life “a living [expletive] hell.” “But he never said I lied,” Hamilton said. “He called me a bunch of names but he never said, ‘You liar.’ And he still hasn’t to this day.”
Hamilton’s tale of pervasive doping at the sport’s elite level was confirmed by the USADA report, which pointed out that all but one of the 21 podium finishers during Armstrong’s reign at the Tour had been tied to likely doping.
By far the most prominent of them was the 41-year-old icon, a cancer survivor whose astonishing — and, to skeptics, suspicious — performances in the world’s most fabled and exacting cycling race made him a hero to millions of admirers and the most visible face in the fight against the disease.
Even though he has consistently and vehemently denied using performance-enhancing drugs, Armstrong did not contest the USADA’s decision to ban him from all Olympic sports and nullify his Tour titles.
“Lance Armstrong was given the same opportunity to come forward and be part of the solution,” Tygart observed. “He rejected it.”
In a Tuesday letter, Armstrong’s attorney Tim Herman accused the agency of acting as “prosecutor, judge, jury, appellate court, and executioner” and presenting a “biased, one-sided, and untested version of events.”
Herman called the report, which the USADA sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency and the international cycling federation (UCI), “a one-sided hatchet job — a taxpayer-funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals, and threat-induced stories.”
The USADA said that its evidence, laid out in chronological form and covering the period from 1998 through 2009, provided conclusive and undeniable proof that Armstrong used and distributed testosterone and blood-boosting EPO and also was involved with transfusions.
“We focused solely on finding the truth without being influenced by celebrity or non-celebrity, threats, personal attacks or political pressure because that is what clean athletes deserve and demand,” stated Tygart, who had said that he received death threats from Armstrong supporters in the wake of the ban.
The USADA last summer also banned physicians Michele Ferrari and Luis Garcia del Moral for life. USPS team director Johan Bruyneel, team doctor Pedro Celaya, and team trainer Jose “Pepe” Marti, whom the agency charged were key figures in the doping conspiracy, also are facing lifetime bans and have taken their cases to arbitration.
The UCI, which had questioned whether the USADA had provided Armstrong with due process, has 21 days to appeal the case to the independent Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland. Part of the report includes Hamilton’s contention that the federation and Armstrong colluded to cover up his positive drug test at the Tour of Switzerland in 2001. Armstrong later offered to make a six-figure donation to the UCI for cycling development.
USADA said in its report that the UCI has “publicly prejudged the credibility of the witnesses and the evidence.” Tygart called on the federation to adopt the proposed “Truth and Reconciliation” amnesty program for doped competitors that it tabled last month because of reluctance to revisit what the USADA report called “one of the most sordid chapters in sports history.”
“It took tremendous courage for the riders on the USPS team and others to come forward and speak truthfully,” said Tygart. “It is not easy to admit your mistakes and accept your punishment. But that is what these riders have done for the good of the sport.”John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.