Lance Armstrong used banned substances throughout his cycling career, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said in evidence that it used two months ago to strip him of his record seven Tour de France titles.
Armstrong forced teammates to dope under the threat of dismissal from his squad, USADA said in a 202-page summary of its case against him yesterday.
Armstrong used the banned drugs erythropoietin, or EPO, and testosterone, according to Colorado Springs, Colorado-based USADA, and provided EPO to teammates and administered testosterone on at least one occasion. Armstrong transfused blood in every Tour de France from 2001 through 2005, his former teammate George Hincapie said. He won all those races.
“USADA 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,” USADA concluded. “So ends one of the most sordid chapters in sports history.”
Armstrong paid $1 million to Michele Ferrari, a physician who played a “major role” in his doping program, USADA said, and there were signs the rider still used blood doping in 2009 and 2010, according to Christopher Gore, head of physiology at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Armstrong, who survived testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain before winning his first Tour de France in 1999, has repeatedly denied doping, saying he has never failed a drug test.
Armstrong said via Twitter last night that he’s focused on Oct. 18-21 plans to mark the 15th anniversary of his cancer foundation. The Livestrong charity has raised more than $470 million since 1997 to fight cancer, according to its website.
“What am I doing tonight?” Armstrong wrote. “Hanging with my family, unaffected.”
The USADA decision is “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,” Armstrong’s lawyer Timothy Herman said yesterday.
Armstrong, 41, was banned for life from competitive cycling and all other Olympic-related sports and stripped of his Tour de France titles on Aug. 23 after opting not to fight USADA’s allegations.
Armstrong has endorsement deals with Nike Inc. (NKE:US), Trek Bicycle Corp., Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI)’s Michelob Ultra beer, Luxottica Group SpA (LUX)’s Oakley unit and RadioShack Corp. (RSH:US), as well as smaller companies such as FRS Co. and Honey Stinger, which make energy and nutrition products.
Paul Chibe, vice president of U.S. marketing for Anheuser- Busch, said in an e-mailed statement that the company’s “current relationship with Lance remains unchanged.”
Brian Strong, a spokesman for Nike Inc., reiterated a previous statement that the sporting goods company “plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.”
Len Zanni, marketing director for Honey Stinger, said in an e-mail that the company’s relationship with Armstrong and his foundation wouldn’t change. Armstrong is a part-owner of Honey Stinger.
FRS Co. declined to comment, spokeswoman Carli LaForgia said in an e-mail. Costanza Assereto, a spokesman for Luxottica, didn’t respond to e-mails. Eric Bjorling, a spokesman for Trek, didn’t answer an e-mail or voice message seeking comment.
Zy Richardson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
USADA said in an e-mailed statement by chief executive officer Travis Tygart that it had sent more than 1,000 pages of evidence against Armstrong and the team to the International Cycling Union, or UCI, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the World Triathlon Corp.
The UCI, WADA and the triathlon corporation have the right to appeal USADA’s findings to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the top tribunal for athletic disputes. Armstrong switched to triathlon after retiring from cycling.
The UCI will examine the USADA report “to consider issues of appeal and recognition, jurisdiction and statute of limitation,” it said in a statement. UCI has 21 days to appeal to CAS.
The U.S. Postal team conducted “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,” Tygart said.
Evidence includes sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the doping activities, Tygart said.
Hincapie, Armstrong’s teammate for each of his seven consecutive Tour de France victories through 2005, was among those interviewed. Other teammates included Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters, and David Zabriskie.
Hamilton was twice banned for doping and stripped of a 2004 Olympic gold medal. Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France win for doping.
Tygart said any active cyclist in the group had been suspended and disqualified “appropriately in line with the rules.”
In addition to the eyewitness testimony of Hamilton, who was invited to share EPO in Armstrong’s refrigerator, and the admissions of Kristin Armstrong, Lance’s ex-wife, Hincapie testified that he “was aware that Lance Armstrong was using EPO in 1999.”
Hincapie told investigators that Armstrong dropped out of a 2000 race in Spain just after taking testosterone, when Hincapie texted his teammate to tell him that drug-testing officials were at his hotel.
Hincapie posted a statement on his website yesterday saying he used performance-enhancing drugs prior to riding “clean” for the past six years. He never had been publicly linked with the use of performance enhancers.
“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. “I deeply regret that choice.”
Of the 21 riders to finish in the top three at the Tour de France from 1999 through 2005, 20 have been “tied to likely doping” through admissions, sanctions, public investigations or because they exceeded UCI’s hematocrit threshold, USADA said in its summary, formally called a “reasoned decision.”
Of 45 podium finishers from 1996 to 2010, 36 were tainted by doping, the agency said.
The report also accused Armstrong of attempting to procure false affidavits, prevent witnesses from testifying and retaliate against those who did.
In August 2010, Armstrong asked former teammates and others to sign affidavits that there was no systematic doping on the Postal Service team, the report said, citing Armstrong e-mails and testimony of Michael Barry, who retired this year. Barry yesterday admitted on his website to doping while a member of the U.S. Postal team from 2002-06.
Armstrong also asked Hincapie to remain in Europe to avoid or delay testifying, intimidated other riders or tried to punish them for speaking out against him, the report said.
Armstrong, three doctors and two former officials from the U.S. Postal team were notified by USADA in June that they had been accused of using and trafficking in performance-enhancing drugs.
Before the August ban, UCI supported Armstrong’s argument that USADA didn’t have jurisdiction over his drug tests or to take the disciplinary actions it did against him. The Swiss- based UCI asked a U.S. judge for a neutral and independent body to oversee any doping case.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas, dismissed Armstrong’s lawsuit seeking to block USADA’s investigation on Aug. 20, while saying he was troubled by the drug agency’s efforts to target the cyclist.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at email@example.com