USADA claims ‘conclusive and undeniable proof’ of doping
Lance Armstrong's US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team "ran the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen", the United States Anti-Doping Agency said today.
USADA chief executive Travis T Tygart said in a statement that there was "conclusive and undeniable proof" of a team-run doping conspiracy.
Eleven of Armstrong's former team-mates testified against him, Tygart said.
USADA are today sending their "reasoned decision" in the Armstrong case to the International Cycling Union, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the World Triathlon Corporation.
This will be the explanation for their decision to strip the retired cyclist, who now competes in triathlons, of his seven Tour de France titles and hand him a lifetime ban.
The evidence, Tygart said, was "overwhelming" and "in excess over 1000 pages".
He said it contains "direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong and confirm the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS Team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding".
Tygart also claimed the team's doping conspiracy "was professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices".
Twenty-six people in total, he said, gave sworn testimony.
Among the former team-mates who did so were Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis.
The other team-mates who gave evidence against Armstrong were Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.
Tygart praised those riders involved in the "doping conspiracy" for having "tremendous courage" to come forward and "stop perpetuating the sporting fraud".
He said: "I have personally talked with and heard these athletes' stories and firmly believe that, collectively, these athletes, if forgiven and embraced, have a chance to leave a legacy far greater for the good of the sport than anything they ever did on a bike.
"Lance Armstrong was given the same opportunity to come forward and be part of the solution. He rejected it.
"Instead he exercised his legal right not to contest the evidence and knowingly accepted the imposition of a ban from recognised competition for life and disqualification of his competitive results from 1998 forward."
The USADA chief also called on the International Cycling Union (UCI) to "act on its own recent suggestion for a meaningful Truth and Reconciliation programme".
He said such a scheme might be the only way the sport can "unshackle itself from the past".
Tygart added: "We have heard from many athletes who have faced an unfair dilemma - dope, or don't compete at the highest levels of the sport. Many of them abandoned their dreams and left sport because they refused to endanger their health and participate in doping. That is a tragic choice no athlete should have to make."
USADA confirmed two other members of the USPS team, Dr Michele Ferrari and Dr Garcia del Moral, also received lifetime bans for their part in the doping conspiracy.
Three further members, team director Johan Bruyneel, a team doctor Dr Pedro Celaya and team trainer Jose Marti have chosen to contest the charges and take their cases to arbitration.