Team reacts to rider's six-month ban, cooperation with USADA
The Omega Pharma-Quickstep team announced today that it has terminated its contract with American Levi Leipheimer, "effective immediately".
Leipheimer was given a six-month ban by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for his admissions to using performance enhancing drugs in the past, including blood transfusions as recently as 2007. The ban was reduced because Leipheimer was cooperating with the agency in its building of a larger doping case against Lance Armstrong.
"We commend the rider for his open co-operation with USADA and contribution to cleaning up the sport of cycling," the team press release stated. "However, in the light of the disclosures made by Mr Leipheimer in his public statement on 10th of October the team has decided to terminate the contract."
"This decision has the full support of the team owner, the board represented by Mr Bessel Kok and team manager Mr Patrick Lefevere."
As part of USADA's investigation into Armstrong and the purported doping conspiracy at the US Postal Service team, of which Leipheimer was a member in 2000 and 2001, he admitted to using EPO in the year prior to being signed by the team and in the two years he spent there. He also testified that he was instructed on how to use the drug to avoid testing positive by Johan Bruyneel and Dr. Luis del Moral, and was given saline to reduce his hematocrit in the 2001 Vuelta a Espana, a race in which he would finish third.
He left US Postal for Rabobank because, after his Grand Tour podium, "my market value went up substantially". He testified that he continued to use EPO while on Rabobank in 2002 - 2004, and using EPO and blood transfusions while with his subsequent Gerolsteiner team.
He also stated that when he returned to the Discovery Channel team in 2007, Johan Bruyneel encouraged him to get on a program for blood transfusions. He initially refused, but finally agreed before the Tour de France.
Although Leipheimer remained with the team through its transition to RadioShack and then RadioShack-Nissan, he claims to have stopped doping after 2007.