Lance Armstrong Doping Case
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Lance Armstrong Doping Case
Lance Armstrong doping case
United States Anti-Doping Agency logo.png
Logo of USADA
Full case name United States Anti-Doping Agency vs. Lance Armstrong
Decided 24 August 2012 (2012-08-24)
  • Armstrong received a life-time ban for participating in sport
  • He was stripped of all of his results and prizes from August 1, 1998
  • He was stripped of seven Tour de France titles
  • His results in the 2000 Summer Olympics were removed from IOC records
Case opinions
Decision by

The Lance Armstrong doping case was a doping investigation that led to American former professional road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and his eventual admission to using performance-enhancing drugs.

History of Lance Armstrong doping allegations

For much of his career, Lance Armstrong faced persistent allegations of doping, but until 2006 no official investigation was undertaken. The first break in the case came in 2004, when SCA Promotions, a Dallas-based insurer, balked at paying a $5 million bonus to Armstrong for winning his sixth consecutive Tour de France. SCA president Bob Hamman had read L.A. Confidentiel, a book by cycling journalists Pierre Ballester and David Walsh, which detailed circumstantial evidence of massive doping by Armstrong and members of his U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team. In 2006, an arbitration panel ruled that SCA had to pay. However, Hamman's real goal was to force an investigation by sporting authorities, believing that if someone in a position to investigate the matter found that Armstrong had indeed doped, he could be stripped of his Tour victories - allowing SCA to get its money back. His hunch proved correct; officials from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) asked to review the evidence Hamman had gleaned.[1]

2010-2012 federal inquiry

U.S. federal prosecutors pursued allegations of doping by Armstrong from 2010 to 2012. The effort convened a grand jury to investigate doping charges, including taking statements under oath from Armstrong's former team members and other associates; met with officials from France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy; and requested samples from the French anti-doping agency. The investigation was led by federal agent Jeff Novitzky, who also investigated suspicions of steroid use by baseball players Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Armstrong's former teammate Floyd Landis was a key witness in the criminal investigation, and according to the book Wheelmen, Landis at one point wore a recording device and used a video camera disguised as a keychain, at the investigators' request in an attempt to gather evidence against a team owner in California. However, based on testimony from Landis, the prosecutors soon turned their attention to Armstrong and the doping that took place on the U.S. Postal Service team years earlier.[2]

As part of his campaign to clear his name from allegations of doping, Armstrong hired a Washington lobbying firm in 2010 to raise concerns about Novitzky, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. The firm worked for Armstrong for about three months, but, after arranging meetings on Capitol Hill, decided a full-scale lobbying effort wouldn't have worked.[3]

On February 2, 2012, federal prosecutors officially dropped their criminal investigation with no charges.[4] The closing of the case by U.S. Attorney André Birotte, Jr. was not without controversy, with the decision coming as a surprise to many.[5] In October, 2012, Velonews announced they had filed a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the two-year Armstrong investigation and its dismissal.[6]

USADA investigation 2011-2012

In June 2012, USADA accused Armstrong of doping and drug trafficking, based on blood samples from 2009 and 2010, and testimonies from witnesses including former teammates.[7] Armstrong, denying all doping use in a statement,[8][9] was suspended from competition in cycling and triathlon.[10][11] He was charged in a letter from USADA, along with five others, including former team manager Johan Bruyneel.[12] USADA said Armstrong used banned substances, including the blood-booster erythropoietin (EPO) and steroids, as well as blood transfusions dating back to 1996.[13]

Activity leading to August decision

In July 2012, Armstrong filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, requesting that the court "bar USADA from pursuing its case or issuing any sanctions against him" based on the claim that "USADA rules violate athletes' constitutional rights to a fair trial, and that the agency does not have jurisdiction in his case." On July 10, 2012, after U. S. District Judge Sam Sparks threw out the initial lawsuit being overly lengthy, Armstrong filed a revised lawsuit.[14] The same day, three of Armstrong's former associates from the U.S. Postal Service team--Luis Garcia del Moral, a team doctor; Michele Ferrari, a consulting doctor; and Jose "Pepe" Marti, team trainer--refused to take part in arbitration and were automatically banned from Olympic-level sports for life.[15]

Judge Sparks ruled in favor of USADA on August 20, 2012,[16] but questioned the timing and motivation of the agency's investigation of Armstrong, and their apparent "single minded determination to force Armstrong to arbitrate ... in direct conflict with [cycling governing body] UCI's equally evident desire not to proceed against him." Applying rational basis review to the Federal Arbitration Act, the Stevens Amateur Sports Act, and various governing documents of USADA, U.S. Cycling and the U.S. Olympic Committee, Sparks upheld USADA's authority to investigate Armstrong and initiate arbitration against him, and that Armstrong's right to due process could not be violated by USADA before any proceedings had actually occurred.[17]

Four days after Judge Sparks's decision, on August 24, 2012, USADA officially charged Armstrong with doping. Had it prevailed in arbitration, Armstrong would have been stripped of all of his results from August 1, 1998 onward--including all seven Tour de France wins. USADA also sought to ban Armstrong for life from any activity or competition whose federation followed the World Anti-Doping Code--which would have effectively banned him from competing in Olympic-level sports.[18]

Three days later, Armstrong, while publicly maintaining his innocence, decided to not officially challenge the USADA allegations. In a statement, he said that the USADA had engaged in "an unconstitutional witch hunt" based on "outlandish and heinous claims." He added that he would have been more than willing to fight the charges, but for that fact that what he described as USADA's "one-sided and unfair" arbitration process was not worth the toll on his foundation and his family. "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough,'" Armstrong said. "For me, that time is now."[19] Under the World Anti-Doping Code, by failing to contest such serious charges of doping offenses, Armstrong was automatically banned from all sports that follow the Code--effectively ending his competitive career. He also forfeited all awards and prizes earned after August 1, 1998, including his seven Tour titles.[19][20][21][22] At the same time, Armstrong told USADA through his attorneys that he could not take part in any USADA arbitration because the UCI was the only body competent to hear the case.[23]

New York Times sports reporter Juliet Macur wrote in her book about the Armstrong scandal, Cycle of Lies, that Armstrong opted not to contest the charges in hopes of keeping USADA's evidence confidential. He also persuaded the UCI not to appeal the sanctions. Under Armstrong's plan, the UCI would have contended that while USADA's findings were unsound, its arbitration process was so tilted against a suspected doper that an appeal would not be worth the effort. According to Macur, Armstrong hoped to be able to portray himself as USADA's victim.[1]

USADA reasoned decision, UCI and IOC sanctions

On August 24, 2012, the UCI requested that USADA issue a "reasoned decision" explaining why the agency felt Armstrong should have been stripped of his titles.[24][25] As previously mentioned, Armstrong believed that by not contesting the charges, the evidence against him collected by USADA would never become public. However, in the wake of a particularly acrimonious battle with Tyler Hamilton in 2005, USADA had amended its bylaws so it could publicly speak about the details of its cases in order to correct the record. Tygart and Bock set about getting affidavits regarding Armstrong's doping from the witnesses in the case, and secured permission from their lawyers to make it public.[2]

On October 10, USADA published the details of its investigation, in a 200-page report accompanied by over 1000 pages of supporting evidence. The report included testimonies from eleven former Armstrong teammates and fifteen other witnesses. It portrayed Armstrong as the mastermind of what it described as "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." The report detailed numerous blood test results that proved Armstrong was guilty of blood doping, as well as over US$1 million in payments to Ferrari. It contended that the normal eight-year statute of limitations for doping offenses did not apply because of Armstrong's "fraudulent concealment" of his doping. Armstrong, USADA said, could not be allowed to benefit from the statute when he lied under oath in both the SCA case and the French investigation, intimidated witnesses and submitted affidavits that he knew were false. Longstanding precedent in U.S. courts holds that the statute of limitations does not apply when a defendant engages in fraudulent acts.[26][27][28]

Among the witnesses who testified to USADA were Frankie and Betsy Andreu who repeated the testimony they gave in the 2005 SCA Promotions case. Landis and Hamilton repeated allegations made over the preceding years. Statements were also taken from former teammates, including George Hincapie,[29]Levi Leipheimer,[30] and Michael Barry[31] all of whom confessed to doping during their careers as well as witnessing Armstrong using performance-enhancing drugs. Before its release, Armstrong's legal representative, Tim Herman, described the USADA reasoned decision as "a one-sided hatchet job--a taxpayer-funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat-induced stories".[32]

On October 22, the UCI announced that it would not appeal USADA's decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, meaning that it accepted USADA's sanctions of a lifetime ban for Armstrong and stripping of all results since August 1, 1998, including his Tour de France titles.[33] UCI president Pat McQuaid remarked that he was "sickened" by the USADA report, particularly how the US Postal team officials coerced one of Armstrong's teammates, David Zabriskie, into taking EPO. He added, "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. He deserves to be forgotten in cycling. Something like this must never happen again."[34][1] The day following the UCI decision, Armstrong deleted references to his Tour wins from his Twitter biography.[35] On November 2, the World Anti-Doping Agency confirmed that it would not appeal the USADA decision.[36]

On January 17, 2013, the International Olympic Committee removed Armstrong's results in the 2000 Summer Olympics from its record books, and requested the return of his Bronze Medal from the time trial.[37][38]

Other reactions

The French Cycling Federation (FFC) issued a statement on August 30, 2012, in support of the USADA decision, stating that "Armstrong's refusal to contest USADA's accusations sounds like an admission of his guilt with regards to breaches of anti-doping regulation." The FFC also announced that it does not want vacated positions to be reassigned and want "...reimbursement of Lance Armstrong's prizes obtained during the Tour de France and other competitions for an amount assessed at 2.95 million Euros for the development of cycling among the youth and the prevention of doping."[39] As a result, there is no official Tour winner from 1999 to 2005.

The "Arthur" episodes featuring Lance Armstrong ("Room to Ride" and "The Great MacGrady") (along with the episode "The Frensky Family Fiasco", which was paired with "Room to Ride") were banned[] because of the case.

The president of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), John Fahey, stated that he believed Armstrong's decision not to contest the USADA's claims pursuant to its process indicated there was "substance to those charges".[40]

Robert Boland, professor of sports management at New York University, believed that Armstrong's marketing potential was still strong after the USADA's decision, stating Armstrong's "story has not been diminished. Here's a guy who essentially was at death's door with cancer and came back. That example still makes him very compelling."[41]

Some cyclists have supported Armstrong. Spain's Fernando Escartin, who placed third in the 1999 Tour de France, stated "Lance Armstrong remains the 1999 Tour winner, second Zulle and third, me... It's 13 years now since this all happened. It seems completely illogical and unreal. I don't want to even think about it."[41]

Under pressure from several members of his board, Armstrong resigned as chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation on October 17, 2012. A day earlier, Nike representatives called Armstrong's agent, Bill Stapleton, and asked Stapleton to give his word that USADA's report was not true, or have Armstrong come on the phone himself to give such assurance. When Stapleton failed to do so, Nike cut ties with Armstrong. Shortly after Armstrong formally announced his resignation, Nike formally announced it had torn up its contract with him, citing "seemingly insurmountable evidence" of Armstrong's doping.[42]RadioShack followed suit hours later.[43]Anheuser-Busch the same day said it would not renew its relationship with Armstrong at the end of 2012, but will continue to support the racer's cancer charity.[44] Other sponsors who cut ties with Armstrong on that day were Trek Bicycle Corporation, Giro, FRS Healthy Performance, Honey Stinger and 24 Hour Fitness.[45] On October 19, bicycle parts manufacturer SRAM terminated the business relationship,[46] while Oakley severed its ties on October 22.[47]

It was announced on October 30 that Armstrong was stripped of the key to the city of Adelaide, which he had received as an honor for his three participations in the Tour Down Under.[48] At the end of November 2012, Armstrong was elected as the top "Anti-Sportsman of the year" by Sports Illustrated.[49]

In early November 2012, Armstrong cut all ties with his namesake foundation, which was renamed the Livestrong Foundation--after the brand it had used since 2003. The move came after several board members threatened to resign unless Armstrong was removed from the board.[1]

Armstrong chooses not to appeal to CAS

After UCI's formal notification to Armstrong about their decision to back the USADA decision on December 6, 2012, Armstrong had 21 days to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. According to L'Equipe, CAS indicated that Armstrong had made no appeal by the evening of December 27, so the final deadline to appeal had passed.[50]

On December 14, 2012, Armstrong met secretly with USADA CEO Travis Tygart at the offices of the former Colorado governor Bill Ritter. During this meeting, Armstrong asked USADA to reduce his lifetime ban from sports to just one year, in exchange for his cooperation with its ongoing investigations, which included its case against Bruyneel. Tygart told Armstrong that under the anti-doping rules, USADA could bring his ban down to eight years, and said that cooperating with USADA would help Armstrong to improve his public image. These secret discussions fell apart after Armstrong told Tygart that he himself, and not the USADA, held the keys to his own redemption.[51][52] In any event, an eight-year ban meant that Armstrong would have been 49 years old before he could even theoretically compete again.[2]

Admission and apology

On January 4, 2013, The New York Times reported that Armstrong had told associates and antidoping officials that he was considering publicly admitting having used banned performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions during his cycling career.[53] Armstrong's attorney, Tim Herman, denied the report that he had decided to admit to doping charges and told the Associated Press: "When, and if, Lance has something to say, there won't be any secret about it."[54]

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey on January 13, 2013 (aired later in two parts), Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career, including all seven Tour de France wins.[55] During the interview, Armstrong stated that his "mythic, perfect story" was "one big lie", and attributed his denials to being "a guy who expected to get whatever he wanted, and to control every outcome."[56][57] The Associated Press and other media reported that Armstrong had made an apology to the Livestrong staff before his interview with Winfrey.[58] Armstrong said that while doping, he neither felt that it was wrong nor felt bad about what he was doing.[59]

In that interview, Armstrong also insisted he was clean during the two comeback years of 2009 and 2010, after UCI had implemented its biological passport program that included stricter whereabouts rules and the monitoring of blood profiles.

Macur wrote that Armstrong decided to admit his doping because he knew he would be questioned under oath about it in the False Claims Act suit filed by Landis. He was also concerned about the toll it was taking on his kids. As Macur put it, Armstrong wanted to "confess on his own terms."[1]


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