By Gregor Brown published
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) today delivered the Lance Armstrong bomb, sending its documentation in the doping case to relevant bodies, including the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). The unflattering picture of the former Tour de France winner will be on show later; within 24 hours the agency will make public its evidence.
USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement, "The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
The UCI will now have to review the documents to decide if it will uphold the agency's decision to strip Armstrong of his results, including his seven Tour de France wins. The federation based in Switzerland may decide to appeal to the sport's high court, the CAS.
President Pat McQuaid indicated at the World Championships last month in Valkenburg that the UCI would follow through with USADA's ruling.
"The UCI still assumes that the reasoned decision and file will justify the USADA's position on all of the issues," McQuaid explained. "The UCI is ready to take its responsibly, unless the USADA's decision gives us serious reason to do otherwise, we have no intention to go to CAS or not to recognise USADA's sanctions."
Armstrong won the World title in 1993 at the age of 21 in Oslo. He returned from cancer to win the Tour from 1999 to 2005. After a brief retirement, he continued his pro career from 2009 through the Tour Down Under in 2011.
USADA charged him with doping through much of his career. It said he used banned methods like blood transfusions and drugs, ranging from EPO to testosterone. And that he encouraged his team-mates to use drugs and helped cover it up. After he refused to defend himself, on August 24, the USADA moved ahead and stripped him of his wins since August 1, 1998.
Tygart said today, "The evidence of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team-run scheme is overwhelming." He explained it covers more than 1000 pages, contains testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders familiar with the US Postal team and its doping activities, bank records, e-mails and scientific tests.
"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. ... [It] brings to the light of day for the first time this systemic, sustained and highly professionalised team-run doping conspiracy."
The bombs will keep falling. As the UCI's lawyers try to come to grips with all the documentation, the public will be treated to a show much greater than Armstrong's Tour wins: the evidence will be posted on USADA's website, www.USADA.org
The evidence will not paint a pretty picture of 41-year-old Armstrong. And it appears damning for Johan Bruyneel, current general manger of RadioShack-Nissan and manager of US Postal/Discovery Channel. He decided to defend himself and will face an arbitration panel before year-end. Armstrong's old friends and doctors, Michele Ferrari and Garcia del Moral, have already received life-time bans.
"[The] 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," said Tygart. "A programme organised by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today."
Tygart applauded the participation of Armstrong's former team-mates Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie. He said the agency gave Armstrong a chance "to come forward and be part of the solution. He rejected it."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.