Lance Armstrong has been formally charged with doping by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) according to the Washington Post. The seven-time Tour de France winner has been banned from competition effective immediately, including triathlons which he has been racing since he retired from pro road cycling in 2011.
The Washington Post reported on a copy of a 15-page letter sent to Lance Armstrong by USADA on Tuesday. In it, the agency alleged that some of Armstrong's blood samples from 2009 and 2010 were "fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions."
Armstrong has never tested positive in any doping tests.
The news comes after the US federal government ended an investigation into doping allegations abruptly in February. The nearly two-year grand jury investigation was closed with no charges brought. The Food and Drug Adminstration's Jeff Novitzky had headed the investigation. Armstrong had welcomed the end of federal investigation earlier this year.
The Washington Post reported that Armstrong's attorney Robert D. Luskin called USADA's latest allegations a product of "malice and spite" on behalf of USADA, which for years has been seeking information on whether Armstrong doped. He pointed to all of Armstrong's passed drug tests and said the letter was a result of a conspiracy against Armstrong since several teams and riders are mentioned, but his client is the only one charged.
USADA has been conducting its own investigation separate from that done by the federal government. USADA has the authority to suspend dopers from competition in Olympic sports and it can take back awards, but it cannot press criminal charges.
The letter accuses not only Armstrong, but also five associates, including three doctors and team manager Johan Bruyneel. It says that they "engaged in a massive doping conspiracy from 1998-2011" and cites the testimony of more than 10 cyclists. Michele Ferrari is one of the named doctors.
In its letter, USADA says Armstrong used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, corticosteroids and masking agents as well as distributed them and administered them to others.
Luskin reported that USADA had invited Armstrong to meet last week, but Armstrong chose not to do so.
USADA had previously said it would obtain information from the US Attorney's federal investigation once its case had closed. "Unlike the U.S. Attorney, USADA’s job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws," Tygart had said in a statement.
On his website on Wednesday, Armstrong issued a statement in response to the USADA letter and allegations.
"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. 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."
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