Seven times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has been formally charged by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) with running “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping programs that sport has ever seen”.
Based on evidence throughout his career – including testimonies from his team mates – the report reveals how Armstrong used banned substances and also had control over pressuring other riders into doing so.
11 of his former colleagues have told their stories of serial doping whilst riding with the US Postal Service cycling team, including how they used testosterone, illegal blood transfusions and the popular drug erythropoietin (EPO), which can boost performance by roughly 5%.
Prior to the publication of the report, Armstrong’s lawyer dismissed it as being “a one-sided hatchet job – a tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations”.
In August the cyclist announced that he would not fight the allegations, maintaining his innocence but stating that he was “finished with this nonsense”.
The Texan retired from cycling in 2005 after winning the last of his seven consecutive Tour de France titles before returning to the sport between 2009 and 2012.
USADA have stated that the decision not to challenge the charges prompted a lifetime ban and resulted in his wins dating back to August 1998 being removed, a judgement that is yet to be ratified.
The organiser of the Tour de France, Christian Prudhomme, has requested that his Tour wins be erased from the record books, instead leaving those years without a winner. The power to do so lies with the International Cycling Union, who will study the report closely before making a ruling.
This is a new height in the anti-doping fight that has marred professional cycling for years. A breakthrough came with the 2007 Tour when the American cyclist Floyd Landis became the first winner to be stripped of his title.
If Armstrong is stripped of his titles, it would be almost impossible to award the title to another rider as many of those who finished close behind him have subsequently been banned for doping. Prudhomme acknowledged that “our challenge is to regain credibility.”
Those involved in professional cycling are now looking towards the future with many branding the Armstrong days as dark times for the sport.
USADA bring their reputation-shattering report to a close proclaiming, “So ends one of the most sordid chapters in sports history”, with the hope that a new generation can move away from the past.