The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has backed Lance Armstrong into a corner.
In a letter sent to the seven-time Tour de France champion, the organization said it has more than 10 witnesses prepared to testify that Armstrong used banned substances between 1998 and 2011.
If he chooses to fight the charges — which have yet to be formally filed — Armstrong’s defense plans to argue the witnesses were coerced into accusing Armstrong in order to receive protection or immunity for their own transgressions — a tactic used in the Roger Clemens trial — according to an ESPN.com report.
“We’re focused on what we understand to be a corrupt bargain USADA made with other riders and said, essentially, ‘Here’s the script, and if you cooperate, you get a complete pass,’” Robert Luskin, one of Armstrong’s attorneys told ESPN.com. “‘And if you refuse, we’ll use Landis and Hamilton against you and you’ll never ride again.’”
Luskin's argument is similar to the one Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, has made during the former major leaguer's ongoing federal perjury trial in Washington, D.C. Hardin told the jury that prosecutors and FDA investigator Jeff Novitzky coerced former trainer Brian McNamee into testifying to "their version" of the truth in their fervor to get Clemens.
Novitzky also was the lead investigator in the criminal investigation into Armstrong that was abandoned by the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles four months ago. USADA officials declined comment.
Luskin sent a letter to USADA demanding records relating to the blood samples the agency said were “consistent with blood manipulation” as well as the names of the witnesses ahead of an independent review panel hearing that will decide whether formal charges can be filed against Armstrong.
Armstrong has repeatedly denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs and reiterated that stance in his response to the latest 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. “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.”