By Nigel Wynn
Lance Armstrong has been banned from competing in triathlons as part of a new doping charge levelled against the seven-times Tour de France winner by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
According to a report in the Washington Post on Wednesday, USADA sent a 15-page charging letter to Armstrong alleging that blood samples collected from the Texan during 2009 and 2010 were "fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions".
The charges are the result of an investigation carried out by USADA and based on witness statements from former team-mates and associates of Armstrong. If the charges stick, Armstrong could face a suspension from any competition and have some of his results anulled.
Former US Postal/Discovery Channel/Astana/Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel and Italian docter Michele Ferrari are among those named in association with alleged organised doping practices over the period 1998 to 2011 - the year Armstrong retired from professional cycling and took up competing in triathlons.
Armstrong quickly published a statement on his website refuting the allegations, calling the action a waste of taxpayers' money and branding it a vendetta against him. He once again underlined that he has never failed a dope test.
"I have been notified that USADA, an organization largely funded by taxpayer dollars but governed only by self-written rules, intends to again dredge up discredited allegations dating back more than 16 years to prevent me from competing as a triathlete and try and strip me of the seven Tour de France victories I earned," wrote Armstrong.
"These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation. These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity. Although USADA alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy extended over more than 16 years, I am the only athlete it has chosen to charge.
"USADA's malice, its methods, its star-chamber practices, and its decision to punish first and adjudicate later all are at odds with our ideals of fairness and fair play.
"I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one. That USADA ignores this fundamental distinction and charges me instead of the admitted dopers says far more about USADA, its lack of fairness and this vendetta than it does about my guilt or innocence."
In February, a federal investigation into Armstrong's alleged fraud, that was supposed to have paid for the doping practices, was closed without charge. When it was, USADA asked for the evidence to handed over. Several of Armstrong's former team-mates, including Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, publically admitted to doping during their professional careers.
February 4 2012: Armstrong holds off the law
Armstrong case dropped by US investigators
Armstrong investigation arrives in Europe
Armstrong's team mate Popovych testifies he did not witness doping
Armstrong's team-mate Popovych summonsed in doping investigation
Landis admits he doped and implicates others
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