Christophe Ena Associated Press file, 2010 Lance Armstrong competes in the 2010 Tour de France. The seven-time winner could be stripped of his titles if found guilty of doping charges. Now 40, he retired from cycling last year.

Doping claims called 'baseless'

Published: Saturday, Jun. 30, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 4, 2012 - 2:53 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has filed formal charges against Lance Armstrong, accusing the seven-time Tour de France winner of using performance-enhancing drugs throughout the best years of his career.

The agency notified Armstrong, former team manager Johan Bruyneel and several other Armstrong team associates of the charges in a letter on Thursday.

The charges came after a USADA review panel examined evidence in the case, which now goes to an arbitration panel to decide. If found guilty, Armstrong could be stripped of the Tour de France titles he won from 1999 to 2005. This year's Tour de France begins today with a quick, 4-mile prologue in Liege, Belgium.

Armstrong's attorney, Robert Luskin, called the doping charges "wrong and baseless."

Also charged are team doctors Pedro Celaya Lezama and Luis Garcia del Moral, team trainer Pepe Marti and consulting doctor Michele Ferrari.

Because they are so closely linked, USADA rolled all of the charges into one case.

Armstrong and the others "(have) been part of a doping conspiracy involving team officials, employees, doctors and elite cyclists," said the USADA letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press.

The letter accuses Armstrong of using, possessing and trafficking banned substances, including the blood-booster EPO, blood transfusions and steroids. The charges date to 1998, after he had been declared cancer-free but before his first Tour de France victory the following summer.

Bruyneel, the manager of the Radioshack-Nissan-Trek team, recently announced he would skip this year's Tour because of the investigation.

USADA says it has at least 10 former Armstrong teammates and associates who will testify against the cyclist and blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that are "fully consistent" with blood doping.

Armstrong and the others charged have until July 9 to inform USADA if they plan to challenge the evidence before an arbitration panel.

The 40-year-old Armstrong retired from cycling last year, and in February a two-year federal investigation centering on alleged drug use by Armstrong and his teams closed with no charges being filed.

"It is the entirely predictable product of USADA's toxic obsession with Lance Armstrong and a process in which truth is not a priority," Luskin said. "There is not one shred of credible evidence to support USADA's charges and an unbroken record of more than 500 clean tests over more than a decade and a half to refute it."

The formal charges came after a unanimous recommendation from a three-person USADA review panel that looked at the evidence.

"All respondents will have the opportunity to exercise their right to a full public arbitration hearing, should they so choose, where all evidence would be presented and witness testimony would be given under oath," USADA said.

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Read more articles by Jim Vertuno



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