AUSTIN, Texas (AP) –– The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is bringing doping charges against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, threatening to strip his victories in the storied cycling race.
Armstrong could face a lifetime ban from the sport if he is found to have used performance-enhancing drugs. The move by USADA immediately bans him from competing in triathlons, which he turned to after he retired from cycling last year.
Armstrong, in a statement Wednesday, dismissed any doping allegations as “baseless” and “motivated by spite” and noted they came just months after federal prosecutors closed a two-year criminal investigation against the cyclist without bringing an indictment.
The charges by USADA were first reported by the Washington Post.
USADA’s letter to Armstrong informing him of the charges also said the agency was bringing doping charges against Johan Bruyneel, manager of Armstrong’s winning teams; team doctors Pedro Celaya and Luis Garcia del Moral; team trainer Pepe Marti, and consulting doctor Michele Ferrari.
The USADA letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, accuses Armstrong of using and promoting the use of the blood booster EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, human growth hormone and anti-inflammatory steroids. The letter doesn’t cite specific examples, but says the charges are based on evidence gathered in an investigation of Armstrong’s teams, including witnesses who aren’t named in the letter.
According to USADA’s letter, “numerous riders, team personnel and others will testify” they either saw Armstrong dope or heard him tell them he used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone from 1996 to 2005. Armstrong won the Tour de France every year from 1999-2005.
It also says blood collections obtained by cycling’s governing body in 2009 and 2010 are “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.” Armstrong came out of retirement to race in the Tour de France those two years.
USADA officials had said they would pursue possible charges against Armstrong even after federal criminal investigators had closed their case.
In a letter to the USADA last week, Armstrong attorney Robert Luskin noted that USADA Chief Executive Officer Travis Tygart participated in witness interviews with federal investigator Jeff Novitzky during the criminal investigation.
“It is a vendetta, which has nothing to do with learning the truth and everything to do with settling a score and garnering publicity at Lance’s expense,” Luskin’s letter said.
Tygart did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Armstrong, who has been in France training for a triathlon, maintained his innocence, saying in a statement: “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.”