26 testify against Lance Armstrong in doping case
Ex-teammates interviewed include Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie
Houston Chronicle, Michael Paulsen, File
Lance Armstrong said he wanted to see the names of his accusers. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency gave him 26, including 11 ex-teammates.
The world's most famous cyclist said he wanted to see the hard evidence that he was a doper. The agency gave him that, too: About 200 pages filled with vivid details — from the hotel rooms riders transformed into makeshift blood-transfusion centers to the way Armstrong's ex-wife rolled cortisone pills into foil and handed them out to all the cyclists.
In all, a USADA report released Wednesday gives the most detailed, unflinching portrayal yet of Armstrong as a man who, day after day, week after week, year after year, spared no expense — financially, emotionally or physically — to win the seven Tour de France titles that the anti-doping agency has ordered taken away.
It presents as matter-of-fact reality that winning and doping went hand in hand in cycling and that Armstrong was the focal point of a big operation, running teams that were the best at getting it done without getting caught. Armstrong won the Tour as leader of the U.S. Postal Service team from 1999-2004 and again in 2005 with the Discovery Channel as the primary sponsor.
USADA said the path Armstrong chose to pursue his goals "ran far outside the rules."
It accuses him of depending on performance-enhancing drugs to fuel his victories and "more ruthlessly, to expect and to require that his teammates" do the same. Among the 11 former teammates who testified against Armstrong are George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis.
USADA Chief Executive Travis Tygart said the cyclists were part of "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
Armstrong did not fight the USADA charges, but insists he never cheated.
His attorney, Tim Herman, 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."
Aware of the criticism his agency has faced from Armstrong and his legion of followers, Tygart insisted his group handled this case under the same rules as any other. Armstrong was given the chance to take his case to arbitration and declined, choosing in August to accept the sanctions instead, he noted.
"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," Tygart said.
The report called the evidence "as strong or stronger than any case brought in USADA's 12 years of existence."
In a letter sent to USADA attorneys Tuesday, Herman dismissed any evidence provided by Landis and Hamilton, saying the riders are "serial perjurers and have told diametrically contradictory stories under oath."
The testimony of Hincapie, one of Armstrong's closest and most loyal teammates through the years, was one of the report's new revelations.
"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," Hincapie said of his testimony to federal investigators and USADA.
His two-page statement did not mention Armstrong by name. Neither did statements from three other teammates-turned-witnesses, all of whom said this was a difficult-but-necessary process.
"I have failed and I have succeeded in one of the most humbling sports in the world," Christian Vande Velde said. "And today is the most humbling moment of my life."
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