Well, I knew something was up today when the UCI set a press release this afternoon saying that USADA was bringing charges against a cyclist and certain other ‘rider support personnel’. The message was more than a little cryptic and did not mention any names.
The UCI confirms that it has been informed by USADA of its decision to open anti-doping cases against a number of rider support personnel and a rider.
This is the first time USADA has communicated to UCI on this subject.
The UCI is not aware of the information that is available to USADA on the persons concerned and has not been involved in the proceedings opened by USADA.
The UCI will follow the case to the extent it will be informed and has noted that the persons concerned have been invited to send submittals on the allegations that are made against them.
The UCI will not comment futher at this stage.
When I first checked the USADA site for information, there was only a mention of charges being brought against BMX rider Shelby Stacy, but I was sure that wasn’t what the UCI was concerned about.
I was away from the computer most of the afternoon and early evening, so it wasn’t until I was heading to my son’s baseball game that I heard that USADA was opening a case against Lance Armstrong. Of course, the response from Lance came quickly, and was consistent with prior statements (I wonder if he has a ‘fill in the blanks’ press release whenever he gets accused? “I have been notified that [agency], [agency specific invective], 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.”). Here’s what he had to say:
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.
It wasn’t until later in the evening that USADA commented on the charges. The statement from USADA head Travis Tygart seems aimed directly at Lance Armstrong’s response to the charges:
In response to numerous inquiries regarding the public statements made by Mr. Lance Armstrong, we can confirm that written notice of allegations of anti-doping rule violations was sent yesterday to him and to five (5) additional individuals all formerly associated with the United States Postal Service (USPS) professional cycling team. These individuals include three (3) team doctors and two (2) team officials. This formal notice letter is the first step in the multi-step legal process for alleged sport anti-doping rule violations.
USADA only initiates matters supported by the evidence. We do not choose whether or not we do our job based on outside pressures, intimidation or for any reason other than the evidence. Our duty on behalf of clean athletes and those that value the integrity of sport is to fairly and thoroughly evaluate all the evidence available and when there is credible evidence of doping, take action under the established rules.
As in every USADA case, all named individuals are presumed innocent of the allegations unless and until proven otherwise through the established legal process. If a hearing is ultimately held then it is an independent panel of arbitrators, not USADA that determines whether or not these individuals have committed anti-doping rule violations as alleged.
At this time USADA will not comment on the evidence or have further comment unless or until it is appropriate.
I have to wonder about USADA not involving the UCI in the case. One might be lead to wonder if USADA thinks that there truly may have been some collusion between Armstrong and the UCI as some have alleged. Still, I was not the least bit surprised by the case. While Armstrong says that the USADA is making the same charges as those in the case that was ultimately dismissed by the Justice Department, that case seemed to be more about fraud and deception. After all, you aren’t necessarily criminally defrauding someone if you dope. Yes, you’re lying to your fans and your cycling federation, but that is not criminal fraud.
An article in the Washington Post goes into a little more detail on the charges, saying that USADA’s 15 page letter says that:
“…it collected blood samples from him in 2009 and 2010 that were “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”
Sounds like biological passport type stuff to me, kids…
USADA’s letter also names Italian physician Michele Ferrari and U.S. Postal team manager Johan Bruyneel as well as Spanish trainer Jose “Pepi” Marti and Spanish doctors Pedro Celaya and Luis Garcia del Moral. All would face competition bans if they are found guilty by the tribunal that will hear the case.
Armstrong had to know this was coming. His attorney Robert Luskin wrote a letter to USADA last week, noting that Tygart participated in witness interviews with Food and Drug Administration investigator Jeff Novitzky during the Justice Department probe.
According to the AP, Armstrong has until June 22 to file a written response to the charges. The USADA letter said in that case a hearing should be expected by November.
LIVESTRONG chief Doug Allman also had to weigh in on the charges against their figurehead, saying:
“Regardless of anything anyone says, Lance Armstrong has been one of the most tireless and effective cancer advocates in the world. His legacy as a cancer advocate and fundraiser is indisputable.”
That I can agree with. No one disputes what the Texan has done for cancer awareness and, to me, that sits separate from the doping charges altogether. May I read between the lines though? They don’t say he didn’t dope, just that he “will always remain a champion” for cancer awareness.
And how about a closing tweet from Johan Bruyneel?
“Trying to figure out our Tour team. Changing nature of our sport, makes it that no decisions are truly final until June 30 start …”
In other words – “I just lost my job. Someone else will be naming the RSNT Tour de France squad.”
Hold on to your bibshorts, folks. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.