In the 15-page charging letter obtained by The Washington Post, USADA outlined new allegations against Armstrong, saying it collected blood samples from him in 2009 and 2010 that were “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”
The charges represent the latest chapter in a long-running saga over whether Armstrong used banned substances during a cycling career that, along with his successful battle against testicular cancer, made him a national hero. Though for years Armstrong has successfully fended off challenges to his legacy, the action by USADA this week represents perhaps the most serious threat because of the anti-doping agency’s unique position of authority in the athletic drug-testing world.
The 12-year-old agency, which is funded jointly by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the federal government, almost never loses cases, though few athletes have the financial means or iconic status of Armstrong.
Armstrong has never tested positive for drugs, and on Wednesday he vehemently denied the USADA charges.
“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,” Armstrong said in a statement released by his publicist. “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. Any fair consideration of these allegations has and will continue to vindicate me.”
In February, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles ended a nearly two-year investigation into doping allegations involving Armstrong without bringing criminal charges. Armstrong’s former teammates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton cooperated with federal agents in that investigation and publicly accused Armstrong of doping.
USADA oversees anti-doping efforts in Olympic sports in the United States. It is empowered to bring charges that could lead to suspension from competition and the rescinding of awards. It does not have authority to bring criminal charges.
USADA’s letter, dated Tuesday, alleges that Armstrong and five former cycling team associates — three doctors including Italian physician Michele Ferrari, one trainer and team manager Johan Bruyneel — engaged in a massive doping conspiracy from 1998 to 2007, and that “the witnesses to the conduct described in this letter include more than ten (10) cyclists.”
All six, including Spanish trainer Jose “Pepi” Marti and Spanish doctors Pedro Celaya and Luis Garcia del Moral, face competition bans. USADA put all of the alleged violations in one letter, it stated, because it considers the six defendants part of a “long running doping conspiracy.”