Ashenden calls commenator's claims 'ignorant'
USADA has issued a stinging response following veteran cycling commentator Phil Liggett's interview where the 69-year-old suggested that witnesses had been paid for giving evidence against Lance Armstrong in the agency's investigation into doping and conspiracy.
Speaking with South Africa's Ballz Radio on August 27, Liggett questioned the merits of USADA's case.
"Why is USADA doing this?" he repeatedly posed. "It's politically motivated. They have a reason for doing this and it's not what they say - it's not to clean up the sport of cycling. There is another reason behind this which they are clearly not saying."
Last week, Armstrong announced that he would not fight USADA's charges of doping and conspiracy which resulted in the agency stripping him of all results, including his seven Tour de France titles, obtained on and subsequent to August 1, 1998 and then issuing a lifetime ban.
Liggett continued: "I could get 10 people together and say, ‘I don't like you. And you take drugs.' But I have no proof. So the fact remains there is no evidence." According to the commentator, USADA is "a nefarious local drugs agency" before going on to claim that it was corrupt.
"Now I can tell you one thing," Liggett said. "And I could prove it in SA [South Africa] but I ... I met a chap who worked with Armstrong on Saturday in Boulder Colorado. And he told me that he had a visit, two years ago, to tell, and the question was, they were agents from a particular agency and they said: ‘Will you tell us that Lance Armstrong took EPO? And we could assure that you will never want for money again'. That was his quote on Thursday and he told them in words I can't put on radio what to do with that and they said "I think we're talking to the wrong man" and they walked away.
"I believe that these 10 witnesses who have all admitted apparently to seeing Lance take drugs, or selling drugs or passing them on and they themselves taking drugs - the reason they're witnesses is they've either been paid or they've been given a deal that they'll never be touched as far as suspensions go."
In response to the claims, USADA issued the following:
"It is blatantly false information from someone who has never had the courtesy to contact USADA for truthful and accurate information," said USADA media relations manager, Annie Skinner.
Meantime, former independent UCI biological passport panel member Dr. Michael Ashenden has written an open letter to Liggett calling his claims ‘ignorant'.
Published on nyvelocity.com, Ashenden says:
"But to answer your question, USADA is not doing this just because of Lance Armstrong. Instead, its about a conspiracy. You can find that word often in USADA's charging letter. A conspiracy that has infested cycling for over a decade. A conspiracy whose filthy tentacles still strangle sport today. A conspiracy that needs to be excised like a cancerous growth."
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