The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says 11 of Lance Armstrong’s former teammates testified against him in its investigation of the cyclist, revealing “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
USADA will deliver its reasoned decision against Armstrong later Wednesday, a summary of the facts it used to hand him a lifetime suspension and erase his seven Tour de France titles.
In a news release previewing the decision, USADA CEO Travis Tygart said it would include more than 1,000 pages of evidence. He listed 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates, including George Hincapie, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, as among those providing evidence that led to the sanction.
Hincapie, perhaps the rider closest to Armstrong during his career, issued a statement Wednesday in which he admitted to doping.
"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," Hincapie said, "Ot is extremely difficult today to acknowledge that during a part of my career I used banned substances."
"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," Hincapie said.
In delivering the report to the International Cycling Union, Tygart called for the federation to create a meaningful program to help clean up the sport.
Tygart said the evidence shows the code of silence that dominated cycling has been shattered.
He said evidence from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the U.S. Postal Service Team’s doping activities, provided testimony for the report. It was with the USPS team that Armstrong won all but one of his Tour titles from 1999-2005.
Other cyclists named in the news release were Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Levi Leiphimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.
In a letter to USADA attorneys sent Tuesday, Armstrong’s attorney dismissed any evidence provided by Landis and Hamilton, calling them “serial perjurers and have told diametrically contradictory stories under oath.” Hincapie’s role in the investigation could be more damaging, as he was one of Armstrong’s closest and most loyal teammates through the years.
“Two years ago, I was approached by U.S. federal investigators, and more recently by USADA, and asked to tell of my personal experience in these matters,” the cyclist said in a statement published shortly after USADA’s release. “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. So that is what I did.”
Tygart said all the facts in the Armstrong case and the cases of six other riders targeted in USADA’s investigation will be made available on the agency’s website later Wednesday.
Two other players in the Postal team’s circle, Dr. Michele Ferrari and Dr. Garcia del Moral, also received lifetime bans as part of the case.
Three other members of the USPS team will take their cases to arbitration. They are team director Johan Bruyneel, team doctor Pedro Celaya and team trainer Jose “Pepe” Marti.
Armstrong chose not to pursue the case and instead accepted the sanction, though he has persistently argued that the USADA system was rigged against him, calling it a “witch hunt” that has used special rules that it doesn’t follow in all its other cases.
The UCI has asked for details of the case before it decides whether to sign off on the sanctions. The federation has 21 days to appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The report also will go to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which also has the right to appeal, but so far has supported USADA’s position in the Armstrong case.
“We’ve got no problem with the process they have followed,” WADA general director David Howman said. “We’ve just got to be patient and be quiet until the decision comes to hand.”
USADA has said it doesn’t need UCI’s approval and Armstrong’s penalties are in place.
Aware of the criticism it has faced from Armstrong and his legion of followers, Tygart insisted USADA handled this case under the same rules as any other.
“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,” he said.