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Christian Vande Velde (US Postal) during the last stage of the 1999 Tour de France
Six month suspensions for those that testified against Armstrong
On the back of their announcement not to appeal USADA’s Reasoned Decision and banning of Lance Armstrong, WADA have also declared that they will not appeal the decision to sanction six of Armstrong’s former teammates.
USADA handed down bans to George Hincapie, Michael Barry, David Zabriskie, Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer and Christian Vandevelde for their own confessions but the terms were reduced to six months after they all agreed to provide written testimony in the US Postal case.
Their sanctions have already started and although Michael Barry and George Hincapie have both signalled their retirement the remaining riders will all be free to race as of next spring. Vande Velde, Zabriskie and Danielson all ride for Garmin-Sharp who have supported their riders since they were linked or accused of doping in 2010. Leipheimer, 38, has indicated his desire to race next season but Omega Pharma QuickStep fired him after news of his confession broke, leaving him without a team for 2013.
“The fight against doping benefits from evidence given voluntarily by athletes where it leads to the dismantling of conspiracies and the discovery of intentional doping – the Code itself supports the concept of reduced sentences for athletes in this situation,” said WADA Director General David Howman.
Howman added that the culture of Omerta within professional cycling could only be broken if athletes were encouraged to come forward and confess to their past doping. Currently Team Sky and GreenEdge have adopted zero tolerance polices, firing staff who have confessed to taking drugs, even as far back as 1998.
“We need to encourage athletes to come forward with information that is beneficial to anti-doping cases, as very often that information is most effective evidence and this furthers the rights of clean athletes.
“This is why WADA has reservations about the zero tolerance idea that is currently being suggested. We all want clean sport, but in order to achieve that there has to be some incentive for people to come forward and help the anti-doping authorities.
“There is no point asking anyone to fully disclose matters from the past that nobody knows of and possibly will never will know about, if the outcome for them is a long sanction or the loss of their job. That simply leads to a code of silence or a continuation of the ‘omerta’ that obviously ran rampant in cycling.
“WADA is always open to suggestions that enhance the fight against doping in sport, but there needs to be a thorough realization of how zero tolerance might effectively operate before embracing it as a principle.”