A damning report placing Lance Armstrong at the heart of the biggest doping programme in sporting history has raised questions about what happens next, with the seven-time Tour de France winner’s career and reputation in tatters.
How Armstrong, who is accused of but has consistently denied systematic doping, managed to evade detection will also dog the sport of cycling, which has sought to improve its image after a series of damaging drug scandals.
Potentially central to the implications of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report, published on Wednesday, could be a section in the 202-page document entitled ‘Perjury and Other Fraudulent Conduct to Obstruct Legal or Judicial Processes’.
In it, the organisation documents what it says were Armstrong’s “false statements under oath... and subject to penalties of perjury” in legal proceedings in the United States and France concerning accusations of doping violations.
The USADA, which said doping orchestrated by Armstrong at his US Postal Service team was “more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history”, said the rider’s testimony was “materially false and misleading when made”.
The body also accused the Texan of trying to “procure false affidavits from potential witnesses” in a US Department of Justice and USADA case against him in August 2010 to say there was no systematic doping in the team.
“Consequently, Mr Armstrong’s efforts constituted an attempt to subvert the judicial system and procure false testimony,” the report added.
The report also accused Armstrong of witness intimidation to prevent teammates from testifying.
Whether further action is taken over what the report said was “the evidence of efforts by Armstrong and his entourage to cover up rule violations, suppress the truth, obstruct or subvert the legal process and thereby encourage doping” is unclear.
But there is little doubt that the long-running affair has cast a pall over cycling.
Armstrong has only tested positive once — for a corticosteroid at the Tour de France in 1999 — but cycling’s world governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI), did not sanction him.
Now, amid claims of alleged use of the banned blood booster erythropoietin (EPO), testosterone and blood transfusions, the UCI will surely have to respond as to the rigour of its testing programmes. Also unclear are what the repercussions for cycling will be, just as it seeks to clean up the sport and move on from repeated doping scandals, particularly in its most celebrated race, the Tour de France.
The USADA report could not have come at a worse time for Tour organisers, as they prepare to unveil the route for the 100th edition and broaden its appeal beyond its traditional heartland of France and continental Europe.
If the allegations and ban against Armstrong are upheld, there is a precedent for replacing Armstrong’s name at the top of the Tour de France classification. Floyd Landis, Armstrong’s former teammate, was stripped of his 2006 title and later admitted doping. Spain’s Alberto Contador also lost his 2010 win to Andy Schleck after a doping violation. But with the majority of riders who made the podium from 1999 to 2005 having subsequently been implicated in doping cases, finding a winner could be difficult — if not impossible.
Sponsors stand by
Armstrong’s sponsors, including sportswear giant Nike, have so far not withdrawn their support but he could yet face a financial hit if he has to repay millions of euros in prize money for his Tour victories and win bonuses.
Six of Lance’s ex-teammates suspended
Six former teammates of Lance Armstrong have been suspended for six months by the US Anti-doping Agency (USADA) after they all admitted doping.
Five Americans — Levi Leipheimer, 38 (of the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team), Christian Vande Velde, 36, David Zabriskie, 33, and Tom Danielson, 34, (all of Garmin-Sharp), George Hincapie, 39, (BMC) — and one Canadian, 36-year-old Michael Barry (Sky) all received six-month bans which will run from September 1 this year.
They were suspended after admitting to blood transfusions and taking substances including the banned blood-booster EPO, human growth hormone, cortisone and testosterone.
Hoy ‘depressed’ by Armstrong scandal
Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy admits he is shocked and depressed by the latest revelations in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
Hoy, the most successful Olympic cyclist of all-time, told BBC Radio Five: “It’s so depressing because of the guy’s books he wrote that were inspirational to people with cancer, and his cancer charity on one side doing so many positive things. Then you find out this.”