A version of this article originally appeared on Cyclingnews.
The US Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) evidence against Lance Armstrong and a doping programme on his US Postal team they called “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen” continues to send shock waves through cycling.
Chief amongst it is the intimate role Dr. Michele Ferrari is said to have played in masterminding Armstrong’s Tour de France success, a relationship that ran from before his diagnosis with cancer in 1996 through to his comeback in 2009. USADA was able to trace more than a million dollars in payments to the Italian doctor, with payments ranging from 1996 to 2006.
The timeline reveals that a brush with near death did not deter Armstrong from doping with dangerous and illegal substances, but that he paid millions to rebuild himself into a rider who was, like the fictional television hero, The Six Million Dollar Man, “better, faster, stronger”.
“The evidence in this case includes banking and accounting records from a Swiss company controlled by Dr. Ferrari reflecting more than one million dollars in payments by Mr. Armstrong, extensive email communications between Dr. Ferrari and his son and Mr. Armstrong during a time period in which Mr. Armstrong claimed to not have a professional relationship with Dr. Ferrari,” USADA revealed.
Lance armstrong: AP Photo/Michel Spingler
The evidence is counter to statements from Armstrong, in which he claims to have severed his professional relationship with Ferrari in 2004.
The report includes numerous eyewitness accounts from Armstrong’s teammates which were detailed in affidavits: [Tyler] Hamilton confirmed that, “Dr. Ferrari injected [him] with EPO on a number of occasions.” Hamilton’s first injection of EPO from Dr. Ferrari came in Dr. Ferrari’s camper while training at Sestriéres in 1999).
“Tyler Hamilton’s testimony that Dr. Ferrari’s training plan for him included EPO is perfectly consistent with the testimony of each of the other five U.S. Postal Service riders who have testified to working with Dr. Ferrari.
“In addition, all three of the Italian cyclists who worked with Dr. Ferrari, and whose witness statements are part of the evidence in this case, also confirm Dr. Ferrari’s program involves EPO use,” USADA wrote. Those riders include Leonardo Bertagnolli and Filippo Simeoni.
USADA’s report states that Ferrari was closely involved with Armstrong’s team, advising key domestiques such as Hamilton, Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, Floyd Landis, Tom Danielson and Kevin Livingston -who was not listed as a witness in this case.
“Multiple handwritten training plans for Kevin Livingston were found in Dr. Ferrari’s files during a search of his residence in the first investigation of Dr. Ferrari.
“The cyclists who have worked with Dr. Ferrari describe handwritten training plans prepared by Dr. Ferrari, and have testified that he placed notations on their plans to indicate the dates on which they were supposed to use performance enhancing drugs. Multiple asterisks are an evident feature on all of the training plans in the file for Kevin Livingston,” USADA states.
George Hincapie, who has admitted to doping in a statement released ahead of USADA’s document and given a six month ban, said that Lance Armstrong introduced him at his behest in 2000. He was told the annual fee for Ferrari’s services was $15,000.
“Dr. Ferrari told me that the team doctors would assist me with the blood doping program and they did,” Hincapie testified. He worked with Ferrari from 2000 through 2006 while helping Armstrong win his record number of Tours de France, including a stage win on the Pla d’Adet in 2005.
Hincapie, Barry, Leipheimer confess to doping, receive six month bans
Among the former team mates of Armstrong to confess to doping are Hincapie, Michael Barry and Levi Leipheimer. All three released statements to coincide with the publication of USADA’s document, accepting their six month bans and expressing regret at their actions.
Hincapie, who says he has raced clean since 2006, said he hoped to stay in the sport as a role model to young riders.
George hincapie: AP Photo/Peter Dejong
“Because of my love for the sport, the contributions I feel I have made to it, and the amount the sport of cycling has given to me over the years, it is extremely difficult today to acknowledge that during a part of my career I used banned substances,” his statement read.
“Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them. I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologize to my family, teammates and fans.
“Three years ago, I was approached by US Federal investigators, and more recently by USADA, and asked to tell of my personal experience in these matters. I would have been much more comfortable talking only about myself, but understood that I was obligated to tell the truth about everything I knew. So that is what I did.
“Cycling has made remarkable gains over the past several years and can serve as a good example for other sports. Thankfully, the use of performance enhancing drugs is no longer embedded in the culture of our sport, and younger riders are not faced with the same choice we had.”
Like Hincapie, Barry says he stopped doping in 2006 when he joined T-Mobile from the Discovery Channel team.
“Recently, I was contacted by United States Anti-Doping Agency to testify in their investigation into the use of performance enhancing drugs on the United States Postal Service Team,” he said in a statement on his website.
Michael barry: Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport
“I agreed to participate as it allowed me to explain my experiences, which I believe will help improve the sport for today’s youth who aspire to be tomorrow’s champions.
“After being encouraged by the team, pressured to perform and pushed to my physical limits I crossed a line I promised myself and others I would not: I doped. It was a decision I deeply regret. It caused me sleepless nights, took the fun out of cycling and racing, and tainted the success I achieved at the time. This was not how I wanted to live or race.
“From 2006 until the end of my career in 2012, I chose to race for teams that took a strong stance against doping. Although I never confessed to my past, I wrote and spoke about the need for change.
“Cycling is now a cleaner sport, many teams have adopted anti-doping policies and most importantly I know a clean rider can now win at the highest level. I apologize to those I deceived. I will accept my suspension and any other consequences. I will work hard to regain people’s trust.”
In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Leipheimer explained why his confession came now, over five years since he stopped doping.
“I could have come forward sooner. But would that have accomplished anything—other than to end my career? One rider coming forward and telling his story in the face of cycling’s code of silence would not have fixed a problem that was institutional.
Levi leipheimer: AP Photo/Christophe Ena
“When USADA came to me and described a solution – where my admission could be part of a bigger plan that would make the positive changes we’ve seen in recent years permanent – I said “I need to be involved.” I don’t want today’s 13 year olds to be discouraged by their parents from dreaming about one day riding the Tour de France.”
As an active rider on the Omega Pharma – Quick-Step team, Leipheimer’s ban has more significance than the now retired Hincapie and Barry. The team released a statement saying the American had been placed on non-active status while they review USADA’s report.
UCI and WADA stance
Cycling’s governing body has said it will try to provide a timely response to USADA’s 202-page report before deciding what action to take.
“The UCI has been advised by USADA that its reasoned decision and supporting material is available to view on its website,” a UCI statement read. “The UCI will examine all information received in order to consider issues of appeal and recognition, jurisdiction and statute of limitation, within the term of appeal of 21 days, as required by the World Anti-Doping Code.”
The World Anti-Doping Authority’s (WADA) president John Fahey issued a statement of support for USADA.
“We would like to commend USADA for having the courage and the resolve to keep focused in working on this difficult case for the sake of clean athletes and the integrity of sport,” he said.
The Australian confirmed that his agency will now, “as with all cases, carefully consider [the reasoned decision’s] contents and the voluminous accompanying evidence.”
John fahey: AP Photo/Marcio Sanchez
John Fahey of WADA