USADA Releases “Evidence” Against Lance Armstrong

This continues to stink of a witch hunt.

The evidence, Tygart said, is in excess of 1,000 pages and features sworn testimony from 26 individuals, “including 15 riders with knowledge of the USPS team and its participants’ doping activities.”

Tygart praised the “courage” of 11 Armstrong teammates who came forward: Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.

According to the statement, USADA gathered information that “includes direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance-enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong and confirm the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding.”

I read a considerable portion of the USADA’s “reasoned decision” against Lance Armstrong yesterday and it was nothing more than a summation of testimony — albeit dark and shady stories from 11 former Armstrong teammates who, in the prime of their physical abilities and careers, had no choice but to help Lance win. So naturally there could be some bitterness there, accompanied by some disdain for Lance’s notoriously volatile personality.

Honestly, some of the report sounded like a bad conspiracy novel — drawing conclusions from incidents that were really, really thinly reasoned. For example, Lance was seen carrying a thermos on several occasions. The USADA concluded that this was evidence that Lance was using the red blood cell booster EPO. Shock-horror! A thermos?! Carried by an elite athlete who requires constant hydration and food? Crazy!

In another passage, the USADA described an episode from the 2003 Tour de France in which Tyler Hamilton asked the rest of the race leaders to wait for Lance after he collided with a spectator. To any cycling fan, this is commonplace. It’s European sportsmanship. When the wearer of the yellow jersey has a mechanical problem or crashes, the other leader wait. Plus, Hamilton was on a rival team at that point. But the USADA concluded that this was Hamilton stalling the race to show his support for a fellow drug-user.

The only thing the USADA left out of the report was evidence of Armstrong lurking on the grassy knoll during the Kennedy assassination.

But I will say this: the report was really dark and disturbing. Lots of cloak-and-dagger stories about Lance and other riders locked in hotel rooms with transfusion bags plugged into their veins. Frankly, considering the detail of these sordid stories, and as unjust as this double- or triple-jeopardy witch hunt might be, I don’t see Lance escaping from this one.

(h/t David Benowitz Attorney at Law)

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  • http://twitter.com/scifritz scifritz

    Do you think he doped? If “yes”, then it isn’t a witch hunt. Also, for the record, if you honestly think he didn’t dope, then you are probably as delusional as the birthers in this regards.

    • muselet

      I honestly don’t know if Lance Armstrong doped (my suspicion is that he did, along with everyone else in elite cycling). No one else on this thread knows, either. Certainly the USADA has no clue, if the best evidence it can muster is testimonial or speculative.

      –alopecia

      • http://twitter.com/scifritz scifritz

        You do know he has failed tests but he did get them removed on technicalities, right? It is like saying Ryan Braun never used PEDs, in 10 years after we forget the technicalities of his case.

        • muselet

          Given the USADA’s well-documented history of doing crap science (links to a pair of 2006 stories in the LA Times here), failing tests isn’t proof of much. And I don’t have the time to look it up right now, but my hazy memory (which could certainly be wrong) is that the technicalities you mention were “A” and “B” samples not giving the same results.

          Again, I suspect Lance Armstrong did use PEDs, but I have no proof of that. The USADA suspects Armstrong used PEDs, but it has no proof of that; it did generate a big, blockbuster report, but from what I’ve seen it’s mostly hot air. As far as I can tell, the USADA wanted a scalp, specifically Armstrong’s, and moved heaven and earth to get it.

          –alopecia

  • Ellen Kuhlmann

    They’ve already banned him from cycling, and taken away his Tour titles. But that wasn’t enough for the USADA. It is a witch hunt, and they are after destroying his reputation completely, they won’t be satisfied until his foundation folds. It seems about about validating themselves from this angle.

  • gescove

    If the “documentary evidence” is as substantial as the “I saw him with a thermos” testimony, then the report is 1,000 pages of nothingburger. But, understandably, USADA wants to send a message. What better means to do it than with a take down of the most iconic figure in professional cycling? The agency has a mission. The cyclists giving testimony have their own careers and reputations to protect. Landis in particular stands to gain because of his “false claims” lawsuit which, if successful, gives him a nice pay out. I remain skeptical, but then I may be delusional as @scifritz contends.

    • muselet

      From commenter “Sam” at BBC Sport:

      Compare the USADA treatment of LA against their stance in more popular US sports. In 2005 out of 111 positive tests in the NFL only 54 suspensions were issued and it’s only a 4 match ban for a failed test. The USADA seems very selective about who they go after and there’s certainly more than a hint of a witch hunt. Guilty or not this whole process has been a farce and doesn’t *prove* anything.

      If USADA wants to send a message, it should go after higher-profile, current athletes. As I said on an earlier thread on the topic, going after Lance Armstrong (again and again and again) smacks of a vendetta.

      –alopecia

  • MrDHalen

    After seeing the ESPN 30 for 30 “9.79”, my belief in Armstrong’s innocence has been shaken if not wiped out. How was he able to maintain his level of dominance in a sport riddled with people doping at highly sophisticated levels? Doping doesn’t give the body a slight edge; it gives it an enormous edge. He was able to hold these other doping athletes off for seven years?

    I want to believe he did it clean, but I’m having trouble making the math add up.

  • http://twitter.com/ifnotwinter Joy H.

    Actually, whether he doped is irrelevant, if he passed 20+ doping tests set by the agency itself while others in the same years were failing them, if the case that Tygart has was thrown out by a court as it didn’t even meet the minimum litmus test of viable prosecution let alone conviction, and if the case depends on induced-approaching-suborned testimony of disgraced dopers or athletes receiving agency/continued-competition clemency for their testimony, then he is an innocent man by legal definition.

    Even weak circumstantial cases have physical evidence and this one has none according to the bull-doggish and successful anti-doping federal prosecutor who declined to prosecute. It’s possible he doped, I think even likely, but it’s also possible that he, as his statement implied when he refused to fight any longer, remained within the realms of what was acceptable to the letter of the rules, if not the spirit of them each year. It’s possible his access to technologies and new supplements kept him ever-ahead of what was about to be banned the next year. It’s even possible that he’s completely innocent and the eyewitness testimony is unreliable. (Whether that seems likely is another matter).

    It’s all irrelevant. In this country we have a standard of evidence and burden of proof that we consider essential to the protection of civil liberties– and public opinion and peer testimony has never been enough to remove those. The cycling world and USADA would have to apply its “hearsay” prosecutorial methods to all cyclists competing in the same years to be even handed or considered anything other than witch-hunting– and, the next logical step is re-litigating prior years going back to the days when cyclists free-for-all doped and prior to that, in the early days, when handle-bar mustachioed bi-cyclists took cocaine for God’s sake. The point is, this is a witch hunt, because it meets no reasonable prosecutorial standard, he’s spent untold sums on his defense even after retiring, and there is not a cyclist in the field who had any reasonable expectation of challenging him who does not also live under a cloud of suspicion or outright disgrace. There is no one who has competed against him who would say drugs, even if he were convicted, made him the competitive threat that he was.

    The man is now in his 40′s winning Ironman Triathalons and placing in brutal mountain biking races. He continues to be drug tested, and he continues to pass, even with super-sensitive high tech tests. He has been singled out when clearly the entire field and history of the sport are riddled with problems. Fine, change the sport and start a-new, but admit what the entire field has been, and develop a reasonable criteria and statute of limitations (which USADA hasn’t honored) and stick to it. Time to move on. A large part of the reason this sport is what it is is because of Lance Armstrong. Many fans, especially in the U.S. wouldn’t even have cycling on their radar if not for him. I don’t care if he’s a dick–maybe he is– he is one of the greatest athletes of our time and I doubt even the USADA would dispute that.

    • Amy Stone

      The USADA is not relying on ‘hearsay” but eyewitness testimony from 11 teammates. That is NOT hearsay.

      Based on his personality, if he was innocent, he would still be fighting.

      He used intimidation and destroyed people.

      To say that this is merely a witch hunt is using LA”s own words to defend him. He has nothing. Funny, he hasn’t made any kind of statement yet. Perhaps he is shopping for new counsel. I bet his current attorneys are packing up their offices right now.

      • http://twitter.com/ifnotwinter Joy H.

        This article gets to the heart of why this is a witch hunt and why this is terrible for the sport. I am not making any other claim, because frankly I have no idea what I can divine about his innocence that the 500 passed random tests, a dropped Federal case, and dropped FBI, FDA, and USPS investigations can’t better illustrate.

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/trevorbutterworth/2012/08/28/the-kafkaesque-trial-of-lance-armstrong-a-former-federal-prosecutor-on-

        In case you’re not wanting to read the thing here are the main bits:

        ““More significantly, if the case is based primarily on witness testimony, which certainly appeared to be the case with Lance since their lab evidence was years old and questionable, they can avoid having their witnesses cross-examined in he courtroom by not having them testify in person. They can submit written affidavits carefully scripted in advance. That violates the hearsay rule in regular court.”

        AND

        “In the absence of any hard laboratory evidence, investigators turned to former Tour de France winner Floyd Landis. Landis had lost his title after a positive dope test, initially claiming innocence and then later admitting guilt. It was only at this juncture that he made doping accusations against Armstrong and others. The investigation, which by this stage included the FBI, the Department of Justice Office of Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, then proceeded to take secret grand jury testimony from an unknown number of witnesses, including, it would appear, members of Armstrong’s previous cycling teams who admitted to doping. It does not appear that any charges were brought against these athletes, which, says Deming, raises the problem of credibility: were they promised immunity if they cooperated with the investigation of Armstrong? But even after all of this, which took two years and millions of dollars, federal prosecutors DROPPED the investigation on February 3, 2012.” (capitalization my own)

        AND

        “In an August 20 opinion on Armstrong’s federal challenge to the USADA’s remit, Judge Sam Sparks called the USADA charging document “woefuly inadequate,” observing that “…the deficiency of USADA”s charging document is of serious constitutional concern.” Going even further, the Judge noted that in Armstrong’s case, “USADA’s conduct raises serious concerns about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives.””

        If you are liberal, and I assume you are because you are here, taking any other stance on Armstrong’s USADA treatment is confounding. This has very little to do with postulating whether he doped, because that part cannot be proved. This has to do with the case against him– which no court or agency considered viable.

    • http://twitter.com/scifritz scifritz

      If you know anything about how test are calibrated, you would know the “I never got caught” is a weak defense.

      http://junkcharts.typepad.com/numbersruleyourworld/2011/05/never-a-failed-test-fails-the-statistical-test.html

  • http://twitter.com/ifnotwinter Joy H.

    Oops amendment to my last post: “20+ YEARS of testing.” Not 20+ tests. I believe he passed over 500 actual tests.