Lance Armstrong banned for life, career vacated
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency erased 14 years of Lance Armstrong's career Friday including his record seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life from the sport that made him a hero to millions of cancer survivors after concluding he used banned substances.
USADA said it expected cycling's governing body to take similar action, but the International Cycling Union was measured in its response, saying it first wanted a full explanation on why Armstrong should relinquish Tour titles he won from 1999 through 2005.
The Amaury Sport Organization that runs the world's most prestigious cycling race said it would not comment until hearing from the UCI and USADA, which contends the cycling body is bound by the World Anti-Doping Code to strip Armstrong of one of the most incredible achievements in sports.
Armstrong, who retired a year ago, said Thursday that he would no longer challenge USADA and declined to exercise his last option by entering arbitration. He denied again that he ever took banned substances in his career, calling USADA's investigation a "witch hunt" without a shred of physical evidence.
He is now officially a drug cheat in the eyes of his nation's doping agency.
"Any time we have overwhelming proof of doping, our mandate is to initiate the case through the process and see it to conclusion as was done in this case," said USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, who couched the investigation as a battle against a "win-at-all-cost culture."
Tygart said the UCI was "bound to recognize our decision and impose it."
"They have no choice but to strip the titles under the code," he said.
The UCI and USADA have engaged in a turf war over who should prosecute allegations against Armstrong. The UCI event backed Armstrong's failed legal challenge to USADA's authority, and it cited the same World Anti-Doping Code in saying that it wanted to hear more from the American agency.
"As USADA has claimed jurisdiction in the case the UCI expects that it will issue a reasoned decision" explaining the action taken, the Switzerland-based organization said in a statement. It said legal procedures obliged USADA to fulfill this demand in cases "where no hearing occurs."
The International Olympic Committee said Friday it will await decisions by USADA and UCI before taking any steps against Armstrong, who won a bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Games. Besides the disqualifications, Armstrong will forfeit any medals, winnings, points and prizes, USADA said, but the lost titles that now dominate his legacy.
Every one of Armstrong's competitive races from Aug. 1, 1998, has been vacated by USADA, established in 2000 as the official anti-doping agency for Olympic sports in the United States. Since Armstrong raced in UCI-sanctioned events, he was subject to international drug rules enforced in the U.S. by USADA. Its staff joined a federal criminal investigation of Armstrong that ended earlier this year with no charges being filed.
USADA, which announced its investigation in June, said its evidence came from more than a dozen witnesses "who agreed to testify and provide evidence about their firsthand experience and/or knowledge of the doping activity of those involved in the USPS conspiracy," a reference to Armstrong's former U.S. Postal Service cycling team.
The unidentified witnesses said they knew or had been told by Armstrong himself that he had "used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone" from before 1998 through 2005, and that he had previously used EPO, testosterone and Human Growth Hormone through 1996, USADA said. Armstrong also allegedly handed out doping products and encouraged banned methods and even used "blood manipulation including EPO or blood transfusions" during his 2009 comeback race on the Tour.
In all, USADA said up to 10 former Armstrong teammates were set to testify against him. Included in the case were emails sent by Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping, describing an elaborate doping program on Armstrong's Postal Service teams, and Tyler Hamilton's interview with "60 Minutes" claiming had personal knowledge of Armstrong doping.
Had Armstrong chosen to pursue arbitration, USADA said, all the evidence would have been available for him to challenge.
"He chose not to do this knowing these sanctions would immediately be put into place," the statement said.
The decision surprised riders around the world.
At the Spanish Vuelta, riders including former rival and teammate Alberto Contador joined ex-Armstrong coach Johan Bruyneel in offering support. Another former rival, Filippo Simeoni, wondered why Armstrong dropped his fight.
"It leaves me a bit perplexed, because someone like him, with all the fame and popularity and millions of dollars he has, should fight to the end if he's innocent," Simeoni said. "But I guess he realized it was a useless fight and the evidence USADA had was too great."
At the USA Pro Challenge in Breckenridge, Colo., longtime friend Jim Ochowicz said he supported Armstrong's decision.
"He has done so much for our sport over the years and I am sad at what has transpired," he said. "I think he has earned every victory he's had."
Bruyneel said Armstrong was the victim of an "unjust" legal case.
"Lance has never withdrawn from a fair fight in his life so his decision today underlines what an unjust process this has been," Bruyneel wrote on his personal website. The Belgian, who manages the Radioshack Nissan-Trek team, has his own legal battle with USADA. He has opted for arbitration to fight charges that he led doping programs for Armstrong's teams.
Armstrong clearly knew his legacy would be blemished by his decision. But he said he has grown tired of defending himself in a seemingly never-ending fight against charges that he doped while piling up more Tour victories than anyone ever. He has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests that he passed as proof of his innocence during his extraordinary run of Tour titles.
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now," Armstrong said Thursday night, hours before the deadline to enter arbitration.
"Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances," he said. "I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities."
Although he had already been crowned a world champion and won individual stages at the Tour de France, Armstrong was still relatively unknown in the U.S. until he won the epic race for the first time in 1999. It was the ultimate comeback tale: When diagnosed with cancer, doctors had given him less than a 50 percent chance of survival before surgery and brutal cycles of chemotherapy saved his life.
Armstrong's riveting victories, his work for cancer awareness and his gossip-page romances with rocker Sheryl Crow, fashion designer Tory Burch and actress Kate Hudson made him a figure who transcended sports.
His dominance of the Tour de France elevated the sport's popularity in the U.S. to unprecedented levels. His story and success helped sell millions of the "Livestrong" plastic yellow wrist bracelets, and enabled him to enlist lawmakers and global policymakers to promote cancer awareness and research. His Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised nearly $500 million since its founding in 1997.
Foundation officials said they remained "proud" of Armstrong and had received hundreds of messages of support from donors, partners and supporters since his announcement. Among them was Nike Inc., which said it planned to continue supporting Armstrong and the foundation.
"Lance has stated his innocence and has been unwavering on this position," the company said.
American Century Investments, another partner, said: "While the actions taken against Lance are unfortunate, we understand his decision to drop his challenge to the USADA charges. The USADA may sanction Lance and attempt to strip his titles, but no one can take away what he's done for the 28 million people around the world living with cancer."
Questions surfaced even as Armstrong was on his way to his first Tour victory. He was leading the 1999 race when a trace amount of a banned anti-inflammatory corticosteroid was found in his urine; cycling officials said he was authorized to use a small amount of a cream to treat saddle sores.
After Armstrong's second victory in 2000, French judicial officials investigated his Postal Service team for drug use. That investigation ended with no charges, but the allegations kept coming.
Others close to Armstrong were caught up in the investigations, too: Bruyneel, the coach of Armstrong's teams, and three members of the medical staff and a consultant were also charged. Bruyneel is taking his case to arbitration, while two medical team staffers and consulting doctor Michele Ferrari didn't formally contest the charges and were issued lifetime bans by USADA. Ferrari later said he was innocent.
Armstrong was criticized for his relationship with Ferrari, who was banned by Italian authorities over doping charges in 2002. Former personal and team assistants accused Armstrong of having steroids in an apartment in Spain and disposing of syringes that were used for injections.
In 2004, a Dallas-based promotions company initially refused to pay him a $5 million bonus for winning his sixth Tour de France because it wanted to investigate allegations raised by media in Europe. Testimony in that case included former teammate Frankie Andreu and his wife, Betsy, saying Armstrong told doctors during his 1996 cancer treatments that he had taken a cornucopia of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.
Armstrong retired in 2005 and almost immediately considered a comeback before deciding to stay on the sidelines in part because he didn't want to keep answering doping questions. Three years later, Armstrong was 36 and itching to ride again. He came back to finish third in the 2009 Tour de France.
Armstrong raced again in 2010 under the cloud of the federal investigation. Early last year, he quit for good, making a brief return as a triathlete until the USADA investigation shut him down.
"He had a right to contest the charges," WADA President John Fahey said. "He chose not to. The simple fact is that his refusal to examine the evidence means the charges had substance in them."
AP National Writer Eddie Pells, AP Sports Writers Graham Dunbar and Paul Logothetis and AP freelance writer James Raia contributed to this report. If Armstrong loses Tour titles, who gets them?
The cyclists Lance Armstrong beat to win his seven Tour de France victories may soon get a chance at his titles. But their ranks include men who have faced a tangle of doping bans and accusations, possibly presenting a headache for Tour leadership.
Here's a look at who else was on the podium in the seven Tours that Armstrong won from 1999-2005:
No. 2 • Alex Zulle, Switzerland. His 1998 team, Festina, was ousted from the Tour that year in connection with the widespread use of the performance-enhancing drug EPO. Zulle later admitted to using the blood-booster over the four previous years. The Festina affair nearly derailed the 1998 Tour, and is widely seen as the first big doping scandal to jolt cycling.
No. 3 • Fernando Escartin, Spain.
No 2 • Jan Ullrich, Germany. The 1997 Tour winner, a five-time Tour runner-up and longtime Armstrong rival. He was the top-name cyclist among at least 50 implicated in the "Operation Puerto" police investigation in Spain in May 2006. Ullrich was stripped of his third-place finish from the 2005 Tour and retired from racing two years later. Earlier this year, he confirmed that he had had contact with Eufemiano Fuentes, a Spanish doctor at the center of that scandal, calling it a "big mistake" but did not admit to doping.
No. 3 • Joseba Beloki, Spain. Implicated in Operation Puerto, he retired in 2007. He was reportedly was cleared by a Spanish court of any involvement in the case.
No 2 • Ullrich.
No. 3 • Beloki.
No. 2 • Beloki.
No. 3 • Raimondas Rumsas, Lithuania. On the last day of the 2002 Tour, police stopped his wife, Edita, at the Italian border and searched her car, turning up suspected doping products. A French court later handed them four-month prison sentences on doping-related charges. The cyclist denied taking banned substances at that event, and all his tests came back negative. He said the products in his wife's car were for his mother-in-law. The next year, he was given a one-year ban after testing positive for EPO in the 2003 Giro d'Italia.
No. 2 • Ullrich.
No. 3 • Alexandre Vinokourov, Kazakhstan. He later served a two-year doping suspension after twice testing positive for banned blood transfusions during the 2007 race. He won the Olympic road race in London last month and has announced plans to retire.
No. 2 • Andreas Kloeden, Germany.
No. 3 • Ivan Basso, Italy. Excluded from the 2006 Tour because of his involvement in Operation Puerto. He claimed that he gave his blood to Fuentes the Spanish doctor at the center of that scandal but never used it. Later that year, Basso received a two-year doping ban; he later returned, and won his second Giro d'Italia in 2010.
No. 2 • Basso.
No. 3 • Ullrich. USADA statement on Lance Armstrong
Statement issued by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Friday:
USADA announced today that Lance Armstrong has chosen not to move forward with the independent arbitration process and as a result has received a lifetime period of ineligibility and disqualification of all competitive results from August 1, 1998 through the present, as the result of his anti-doping rule violations stemming from his involvement in the United States Postal Service (USPS) Cycling Team Doping Conspiracy (USPS Conspiracy).
Following the dismissal of Mr. Armstrong's lawsuit on Monday, August 20, 2012, by the federal court in Austin, Texas, Mr. Armstrong had until midnight on Thursday, August 23, to contest the evidence against him in a full evidentiary hearing with neutral arbitrators as provided by U.S. law. However, when given the opportunity to challenge the evidence against him, and with full knowledge of the consequences, Mr. Armstrong chose not to contest the fact that he engaged in doping violations from at least August 1, 1998 and participated in a conspiracy to cover up his actions. As a result of Mr. Armstrong's decision, USADA is required under the applicable rules, including the World Anti-Doping Code under which he is accountable, to disqualify his competitive results and suspend him from all future competition.
"Nobody wins when an athlete decides to cheat with dangerous performance enhancing drugs, but clean athletes at every level expect those of us here on their behalf, to pursue the truth to ensure the win-at-all-cost culture does not permanently overtake fair, honest competition" said USADA CEO, Travis T. Tygart. "Any time we have overwhelming proof of doping, our mandate is to initiate the case through the process and see it to conclusion as was done in this case."
As is every athlete's right, if Mr. Armstrong would have contested the USADA charges, all of the evidence would have been presented in an open legal proceeding for him to challenge. He chose not to do this knowing these sanctions would immediately be put into place.
The evidence against Lance Armstrong arose from disclosures made to USADA by more than a dozen witnesses who agreed to testify and provide evidence about their firsthand experience and/or knowledge of the doping activity of those involved in the USPS Conspiracy as well as analytical data. As part of the investigation Mr. Armstrong was invited to meet with USADA and be truthful about his time on the USPS team but he refused.
On June 12, 2012, USADA issued a notice letter informing Mr. Armstrong and five other individuals, including the USPS team director, team trainer and three team doctors, of USADA's intent to open proceedings against them. On June 28, 2012, following a review process set forth in the applicable rules, USADA notified Mr. Armstrong and the other five individuals that the independent review panel's finding confirmed sufficient and in fact overwhelming evidence, and that USADA was charging them with rule violations.
Numerous witnesses provided evidence to USADA based on personal knowledge acquired, either through direct observation of doping activity by Armstrong or through Armstrong's admissions of doping to them that Armstrong used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during the period from before 1998 through 2005, and that he had previously used EPO, testosterone and hGH through 1996. Witnesses also provided evidence that Lance Armstrong gave to them, encouraged them to use and administered doping products or methods, including EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during the period from 1999 through 2005. Additionally, scientific data showed Mr. Armstrong's use of blood manipulation including EPO or blood transfusions during Mr. Armstrong's comeback to cycling in the 2009 Tour de France.
The anti-doping rule violations for which Mr. Armstrong is being sanctioned are:
(1)Use and/or attempted use of prohibited substances and/or methods including EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, corticosteroids and masking agents.
(2)Possession of prohibited substances and/or methods including EPO, blood transfusions and related equipment (such as needles, blood bags, storage containers and other transfusion equipment and blood parameters measuring devices), testosterone, corticosteroids and masking agents.
(3)Trafficking of EPO, testosterone, and corticosteroids.
(4)Administration and/or attempted administration to others of EPO, testosterone, and cortisone.
(5)Assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, covering up and other complicity involving one or more anti-doping rule violations and/or attempted anti-doping rule violations.
These activities are defined as anti-doping rule violations under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing, the United States Olympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policies, USA Cycling rules and the International Cycling Union (UCI) Anti-Doping Rules (UCI ADR), all of which have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.
In accordance with the Code, aggravating circumstances including involvement in multiple anti-doping rule violations and participation in a sophisticated doping scheme and conspiracy as well as trafficking, administration and/or attempted administration of a prohibited substance or method, justify a period of ineligibility greater than the standard sanction. Accordingly, Mr. Armstrong has received a lifetime period of ineligibility for his numerous anti-doping rule violations, including his involvement in trafficking and administering doping products to others. A lifetime period of ineligibility as described in the Code prevents Mr. Armstrong from participating in any activity or competition organized by any signatory to the Code or any member of any signatory.
In addition to the lifetime ban, Mr. Armstrong will be disqualified from any and all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to August 1, 1998, including forfeiture of any medals, titles, winnings, finishes, points and prizes.
As noted above, Mr. Armstrong challenged the arbitration process in federal court. In response, the court found that "the USADA arbitration rules, which largely follow those of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) are sufficiently robust to satisfy the requirements of due process." USADA's rules provide that where an athlete or other person is sanctioned because they fail to contest USADA's charges in arbitration, the sanction shall not be reopened or subject to appeal unless the athlete or other person can demonstrate that he did not receive actual or constructive notice of the opportunity to contest the sanction. Because Mr. Armstrong could have had a hearing before neutral arbitrators to contest USADA's evidence and sanction and he voluntarily chose not to do so, USADA's sanction is final.
In an effort to aid athletes, as well as all support team members such as parents and coaches, in understanding the rules applicable to them, USADA provides comprehensive instruction on its website on the testing process and prohibited substances, how to obtain permission to use a necessary medication, and the risks and dangers of taking supplements as well as performance-enhancing and recreational drugs. In addition, the agency manages a drug reference hotline, Drug Reference Online (http://www.GlobalDRO.com), conducts educational sessions with National Governing Bodies and their athletes, and proactively distributes a multitude of educational materials, such as the Prohibited List, easy-reference wallet cards, periodic newsletters, and protocol and policy reference documentation.
UCI statement on Lance Armstrong
Statement issued Friday by the International Cycling Union in regard to Lance Armstrong:
"The UCI notes Lance Armstrong's decision not to proceed to arbitration in the case that USADA has brought against him.
The UCI recognizes that USADA is reported as saying that it will strip Mr. Armstrong of all results from 1998 onwards in addition to imposing a lifetime ban from participating in any sport which recognizes the World Anti-Doping Code.
Article 8.3 of the WADC states that where no hearing occurs the Anti-Doping Organization with results management responsibility shall submit to the parties concerned (Mr. Armstrong, WADA and UCI) a reasoned decision explaining the action taken.
As USADA has claimed jurisdiction in the case the UCI expects that it will issue a reasoned decision in accordance with Article 8.3 of the Code.
Until such time as USADA delivers this decision the UCI has no further comment to make."