Lance Armstrong is weighing his legal options after being charged once again by the USADA for allegedly using banned substances between 1988 and 2001. As Matt Brooks reported :

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.

But while the 12-year-old agency rarely brings a case it cannot win, Armstrong has been in this position before, and each time he has avoided penalty. Now, once again, he’s considering his options.

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 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 “‘And if you refuse, we’ll use Landis and Hamilton against you and you’ll never ride again.’”

The USADA charges mean that Armstrong will not be eligible to compete in the Ironman triathlons, which he had become active in after retiring. As Amy Shipley wrote:

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.

Armstrong’s statement refuting the USADA charges was released Wednesday. As AP reported:

“I have been notified that USADA, an organization largely funded by taxpayer dollars but governed only by self-written rules, intends to again dredge up discredited allegations dating back more than 16 years to prevent me from competing as a triathlete and try and strip me of the seven Tour de France victories I earned. These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation. These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity. Although USADA alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy extended over more than 16 years, I am the only athlete it has chosen to charge. USADA’s malice, its methods, its star-chamber practices, and its decision to punish first and adjudicate later all are at odds with our ideals of fairness and fair play.

“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. 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.”

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