After months of speculation and waiting, the US Anti-Doping Agency released a 200+ page report outlining the case it has against Lance Armstrong yesterday. In the report, the USADA claims that not only did Armstrong use performance enhancing drugs while competing as a professional cyclist, but that he was also at the center of an extensive doping ring that permeated throughout the U.S. Postal squad and cycling in general. To back-up their claims, the report cites 26 witnesses, including 11 former Armstrong teammates.
The document released yesterday is just a synopsis of the vast amounts of evidence that the USADA claims to have on Armstrong. It references eye-witness reports, emails, lab tests and financial documents, and includes details a strict doping regimen that included PED’s and blood transfusions, and even says that Armstrong’s ex-wife Kristen would wrap cortisone pills in foil and hand them out to riders on his team. Travis Tygart, the head of the USADA, called it “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
Perhaps the most damning evidence of all comes from the list of cyclists who have testified against Armstrong, including several riders that were close friends. That list includes George Hincapie, one of the most respected riders in the sport, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie, Tyler Hamilton and others. Each of them admitted to doping and implicated Armstrong in the process.
As if that wasn’t enough, the report also claims that retroactive testing of Armstrong’s blood samples taken in the 1999 Tour de France test positive for EPO. Not just one sample, but six. For years Armstrong has used the defense that he never tested positive for a banned substance during his career, but what he doesn’t really mention is that a test for EPO didn’t come along until a few years later. He would also often dismiss those who spoke out about potential doping by discrediting them in the media, often claiming they had some grudge or axe to grind. The list of people on this list will be much harder to dismiss so lightly.
So what happens next? The UCI now has three weeks to review the report and decide how to proceed. It is that body, along with the Tour de France, that can elect to strip Armstrong of his seven titles. Because he chose to not fight these charges, Lance already faces a lifetime ban from competition, it is just a matter of whether or not his wins will continue to be considered official.
For anyone who has followed the sport of cycling or the Lance Armstrong saga, these results probably aren’t much of a surprise. Considering the era in which he competed, it seems virtually impossible that he could have won all those races while competing completely clean. It’s a shame that Armstrong’s reputation now seems destined to go down in flames, as he has done a lot of good things outside of the sport that made him famous. He is also a tremendous athlete whether he was doping or not, but his legacy will be forever tainted by this scandal.
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