x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Lance Armstrong branded 'serial' cheat by USADA over doping programme

Eleven of the former Tour De France winner's teammates have given evidence against the cyclist as report claims he led 'the most sophisticated doping programme sport has ever seen'.

Lance Armstrong's credentials as seven-time Tour de France champion is in doubt.
Lance Armstrong's credentials as seven-time Tour de France champion is in doubt.

Lance Armstrong's former team-mates have revealed the pressure they faced to take performance-enhancing drugs during their time at his US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team.

Eleven testified against Armstrong to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, who have accused his team of running "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".USADA praised their "courage" in coming forward and several have released mea culpa statements of their own.

USADA yesterday released the reasons, which evidence from 11 of Armstrong's former team-mates, behind their decision to strip him of his seven Tour de France titles and hand him a lifetime ban.

Armstrong decided earlier this year not to contest the USADA charges, but he has always denied any involvement with doping and his lawyer Sean E Breen denounced the action as "a patently unfair, rigged process".

But according to USADA chief executive Travis T Tygart, there was "conclusive and undeniable proof" of a team-run doping conspiracy at Armstrong's US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team.

Michael Barry, who since 2010 has ridden for Team Sky and will retire at the end of the 2012 season, competed for the USPS team from 2002 to 2006.

The 36-year-old Canadian said on his website: "After being encouraged by the team, pressured to perform and pushed to my physical limits I crossed a line I promised myself and others I would not: I doped.

"It was a decision I deeply regret. It caused me sleepless nights, took the fun out of cycling and racing, and tainted the success I achieved at the time. This was not how I wanted to live or race."Barry said he never doped again from the summer of 2006 and, although he did not confess to his past, became an advocate of clean cycling and the need for change.

He added: "I apologise to those I deceived. I will accept my suspension and any other consequences. I will work hard to regain people's trust."

American George Hincapie, 39, was at the USPS team for 10 years from 1997 to 2007. He retired in August.

He said on his website: "Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them. I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologise to my family, team-mates and fans."

Hincapie said he had competed clean for the past six years and during that time had worked hard to rid the sport of drugs.

Christian Vande Velde, who was at the USPS team from 1998 to 2003 and now rides for Slipstream-Chipotle, described yesterday as the "most humbling moment" of his life.

The 36-year-old American said: "As a young pro rider I competed drug free, not winning, but holding my own and achieving decent results.

"Then, one day, I was presented with a choice that to me, at the time, seemed like the only way to continue to follow my dream at the highest level of the sport.

"I gave in and crossed the line, a decision that I deeply regret. I was wrong to think I didn't have a choice - the fact is that I did, and I chose wrong. I won races before doping and after doping.

"Ironically, I never won while doping, I was more or less just treading water. This does not make it okay. I saw the line and I crossed it, myself.

"I am deeply sorry for the decisions I made in the past - to my family, my fans, my peers, to the sport that I love and those in and out of it - I'm sorry. I always will be."

The former team-mates who gave evidence against Armstrong were Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.

USADA claimed Armstrong, 41, supplied banned drugs to other riders on the team, pressured them into participating in the doping programme and threatened to get them removed from the team if they refused.

The 'reasoned decision' document said: "USADA has found proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Lance Armstrong engaged in serial cheating through the use, administration and trafficking of performance-enhancing drugs and methods and that Armstrong participated in running in the US Postal Service Team as a doping conspiracy.

"Armstrong and his co-conspirators sought to achieve their ambitions through a massive fraud now more fully exposed. So ends one of the most sordid chapters in sports history."

USADA said it was sending the report, which was more than 1,000 pages long and contained the sworn testimony of 26 people, including 15 riders, to the International Cycling Union, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the World Triathlon Corporation, before making it available on its website.

"The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen," USADA said in a statement.

"The evidence also includes direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong and confirm the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS Team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding."

Armstrong has denied cheating and never failed a doping test but the seven-times Tour de France winner was banned for life by USADA in August and had his titles stripped after he announced he would not fight the charges.

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