Lance Armstrong 'serial cheat' who enforced doping - report
Cyclist's reputation in tatters after team-mates give evidence of illegal doping culture he inspired
LANCE ARMSTRONG'S reputation, both as a cyclist and a man, lies in tatters today after the publication of a devastating report by the United States Anti-Doping Agency [Usada] in which 26 witnesses testify to his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The report, which has been sent to the International Cycling Union (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency and the World Triathlon Corporation, reveals the extraordinary lengths that Armstrong went to in his quest for cycling glory.
"His goal [of winning the Tour de France] led him to depend on EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions but also, more ruthlessly, to expect and to require that his team-mates would likewise use drugs to support his goals if not their own," says the report.
"It was not enough that his team-mates give maximum effort on the bike, he also required that they adhere to the doping programme outlined for them or be replaced. He was not just a part of the doping culture on his team, he enforced and re-enforced it."
Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times between 1999 and 2005 but it is his former team-mates on the US Postal Service Team who provide the most damning evidence in the 1000-page report. Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis are among 11 former team-mates cited in Usada's evidence, though according to The Guardian the gravest testimony is that of Armstrong's good friend George Hincapie.
He told the report: "At a race in Spain in 2000 Lance indicated to me he had taken testosterone. Lance told me that he was feeling good and recovered, that he had just taken some 'oil'. When I heard that drug testing officials were at the hotel, I texted Lance to warn him to avoid the place..."
As a consequence of such evidence, Usada accuses Armstrong in its report of being "engaged in serial cheating through the use, administration and trafficking of performance-enhancing drugs and methods".
In addition, Armstrong is accused of threatening to axe fellow riders from the team if they didn't comply with the doping programme, and of later threatening potential witnesses when Usada began investigating allegations of drug use. There was for many years, claims the report, "a code of silence" in cycling that allowed Armstrong to believe he was untouchable.
Armstrong continues to deny all charges of doping but in August decided not to contest the charges. The 41-year-old Texan called them "nonsense" but many interpreted his decision as the act of a man who realised the game was up.
Nonetheless Armstrong's lawyer came out fighting last night, describing the report as 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."
Armstrong has already been stripped of all his titles by Usada, a decision that could be challenged by UCI in the next 21 days. Faced with such a mountain of evidence, however, it appears unlikely that they will lodge an appeal.
Instead they will likely concur with the statement released by Usada chief executive Travis T Tygart to accompany the publication of the report. He said: "Armstrong and his co-conspirators sought to achieve their ambitions through a massive fraud now more fully exposed. So ends one of the most sordid chapters in sports history."