blood thickens: Lance Armstrong “participated in a sophisticated scheme and conspiracy to dope, encourage and assist others to dope and cover up rule violations,” according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in a summary released Wednesday (Oct. 10) of its investigation of the cycling champion.
In August, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and slapped with a lifetime ban from professional cycling after he dropped his fight against the USADA’s doping allegations.
The USADA’s 202-page report includes sworn testimony from 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates — most notably George Hincapie, who also released a statement Oct. 10 admitting for the first time publicly that he too cheated.
“Because of my love for the sport, the contributions I feel I have made to it, and the amount the sport of cycling has given to me over the years, it is extremely difficult today to acknowledge that during a part of my career I used banned substances,” writes Hincapie 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 apologize to my family, teammates and fans.”
The USADA’s “reasoned decision” explaining its sanctions against Armstrong cites “overwhelming evidence” of his rule violations dating back to 1998, including the sworn statements of his teammates, other professional cyclists, his masseuse; incriminating emails and banking and accounting records, and lab results.
According to USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart in a statement released Wednesday, “The USPS Team doping conspiracy was professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices. A program organized by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today.”
Anticipating the USADA’s report, Timothy J. Herman, Armstrong’s lawyer, countered that the agency is conducting a “witch hunt” against their client, using “threats and sweetheart deals” to “coerce and manufacture evidence from other riders” and relying on the testimony of “serial perjurers.”
In fact, Floyd Llandis, Armstrong’s former teammate and one of the USADA’s star witnesses, recently avoided prosecution by admitting he defrauded donors who contributed to his own legal fight against the USADA, before admitting to doping and being stripped of his Tour de France title. He agreed to repay almost half a million dollars in restitution.