THE BIG READ: Armstrong shamed

12 October 2012 - 02:13 By Nick Hoult
Rumours of doping swirled around Lance Armstrong during his illustrious cycling career. He has never failed a doping test, but it seems that was all an elaborate facade.
Rumours of doping swirled around Lance Armstrong during his illustrious cycling career. He has never failed a doping test, but it seems that was all an elaborate facade.

Lance Armstrong's inspirational journey from cancer survivor to seven-time winner of the revered Tour de France is in ruins after he was accused of massive drug-taking and being the ringleader of the most sophisticated doping conspiracy in sporting history.

The US Anti-Doping Agency has charged him with six offences covering the use of banned substances, the trafficking of drugs, the administration of drugs to teammates and aiding and abetting a massive cover-up between 1998 and 2005, a period when he dominated the world's most famous race.

A total of 26 witnesses, including 11 fellow riders from the US Postal Service team, testified to the agency against Armstrong in a doping case it described as "more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history". The document has been sent to the International Cycling Union, which now has 21 days to challenge its findings and appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Armstrong is accused of using a cocktail of banned substances and blood transfusions as part of an elaborate doping case, which implicates support staff from his team, fellow riders and even his former wife. The doping programme was created by Italian doctor Michele Ferrari. Armstrong is said to have travelled across Europe during and before races to have blood transfusions.

The report also accuses Armstrong of administering testosterone to a team-mate, threatening fellow riders with being fired if they did not follow Ferrari's programme, and of surrounding himself with drug runners "so he could achieve his goal of winning the Tour de France year after year".

The report says there is a "code of silence" in cycling and the 200 pages of evidence released on Wednesday feature financial records, e-mail traffic and laboratory test results, which the agency believes prove Armstrong was doping for years.

"The USPS team doping conspiracy was designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, evade detection, ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair advantage through superior doping practices," the agency said.

"[The] programme [was] organised by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today."

Witnesses revealed how Armstrong would receive blood transfusions in the team doctor's hotel during races. When police in France tightened up security, Armstrong employed a drug smuggler called "Motoman" to deliver erythropoietin to rendezvous points on the 2001 Tour de France route.

"Lance Armstrong and his handlers engaged in a massive and long-running scheme to use drugs, cover their tracks, intimidate witnesses, tarnish reputations, lie to hearing panels and the press and do whatever was necessary to conceal the truth," the report says.

Armstrong refused to cooperate with the investigation but, last month, after losing a legal suit challenging the agency's jurisdiction, he decided not to contest the case and was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories.

Armstrong's attorney, Tim Herman, on Wednesday called the report "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 report lays bare his relationship with Ferrari and includes records from Swiss banks detailing payments by Armstrong of more than $1-million to the Italian.

Damning testimony has been provided by some of the leading cyclists of the 1990s and 2000s. Some were thrown out of the sport because of drug use, but, others, for the first time, owned up to the agency about their own drug- taking, including Canadian Michael Barry, who competed in this year's Tour de France alongside Bradley Wiggins for Team Sky.

The most personally damaging aspect for Armstrong is the testimony provided by George Hincapie, the respected rider who retired at the end of this year's Tour de France.

Hincapie was alongside Armstrong for his seven tour victories and, like Armstrong, never failed a drug test in his career. In the past, Armstrong described him as "true blue, like a brother to me".

He has told the agency of his own doping and how his role as domestique also stretched to off the road. In 2005, Hincapie was told by the team's director, Johan Bruyneel, to sweep Armstrong's flat for any drug material.

Other riders revealed how they witnessed Armstrong use drugs. Jonathan Vaughters testified that he saw Armstrong injecting EPO at the 1998 Vuelta a Espana. Floyd Landis corroborates the story that Armstrong failed a dope test at the Tour of Switzerland in 2001.

Landis says the team manager and Armstrong "flew to the UCI headquarters and made a financial agreement to keep the positive test hidden". The report states Pat McQuaid, current UCI president, "has acknowledged that, during 2002, Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel visited the UCI headquarters and offered at least $100000 to help the development of cycling.

"UCI vehemently denies that meeting or payment was, as Armstrong told Tyler Hamilton and Landis, tied to a cover-up of the 2001 Tour de Suisse sample." - ©The Daily Telegraph