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Exposed

LANCE Armstrong said he wanted to see the names of his accusers. The US 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 centres to the way Armstrong's ex-wife rolled cortisone pills into foil and handed them out to all the cyclists.

In all, the just-released USADA report 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 US 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, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".

Armstrong did not fight the USADA charges, but still insists he never cheated.

The report called the evidence "as strong or stronger than any case brought in USADA's 12 years of existence".



Humbling

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."

Mr Tygart said evidence from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the US Postal Service team's doping activities, provided material for the report. The agency also interviewed Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie. Andreu's wife, Betsy, was another key witness. She has been one of Armstrong's most consistent and unapologetic critics.

"It took tremendous courage for the riders on the USPS Team and others to come forward and speak truthfully," Mr Tygart said.

In some ways, the USADA report simply pulls together and amplifies allegations that have followed Armstrong ever since he beat cancer and won the Tour for the first time.

At various times and in different forums, Landis, Hamilton and others have said that Armstrong encouraged doping on his team and used banned substances himself.

Written in a more conversational style than a typical legal document, the report lays out in chronological order, starting in 1998 and running through 2009:

l Multiple examples of Armstrong using multiple drugs, including the blood-boosting hormone EPO, citing the "clear finding" of EPO in six blood samples from the 1999 Tour de France that were retested. UCI concluded those samples were mishandled and couldn't be used to prove anything. In bringing up the samples, USADA said it considers them corroborating evidence that isn't even necessary given the testimony of its witnesses.

• Testimony from Hamilton, Landis and Hincapie, all of whom say they received EPO from Armstrong.

•Evidence of the pressure Armstrong put on the riders to go along with the doping programme.

"The conversation left me with no question that I was in the doghouse and that the only way forward with Armstrong's team was to get fully on Dr Ferrari's doping programme," Vande Velde testified.

• What Vaughters called "an outstanding early-warning system regarding drug tests". One example came in 2000, when Hincapie found out there were drug testers at the hotel where Armstrong's team was staying. Aware Armstrong had taken testosterone before the race, Hincapie alerted him and Armstrong dropped out of the race to avoid being tested, the report said.

Though she didn't testify, Armstrong's ex-wife, Kristin, is mentioned 30 times in the report. In one episode, Armstrong asks her to wrap banned cortisone pills in foil to hand out to his teammates.







Guru

"Kristin obliged Armstrong's request by wrapping the pills and handing them to the riders. One of the riders remarked, 'Lance's wife is rolling joints'," the report read.

While the arguments about Armstrong will continue among sports fans -- and there is still a question of whether USADA or the International Cycling Union (UCI) has the ultimate authority to take away his Tour titles -- the new report puts a cap on a long round of official investigations.

Some of the newest information includes a depiction of Armstrong's continuing relationship with physician and training guru Michele Ferrari. Like Armstrong, Ferrari has received a lifetime ban from USADA.

Long thought of as the mastermind of Armstrong's alleged doping plan, Ferrari was investigated in Italy and Armstrong claimed he had cut ties with the doctor after a 2004 conviction.

The conviction was later overturned but was nonetheless the reason Armstrong cut ties with him. USADA cites financial records that show payments of at least $210,000 (¤163,000) in the two years after that. It also cited emails from 2009 showing Armstrong asking Ferrari's son if he could make a $25,000 (¤19,500) cash payment the next time they saw each other.

Armstrong chose not to pursue the case and instead accepted the sanction, though he has consistently argued that the USADA system was rigged against him.

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".

hnews@herald.ie


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