Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will face formal doping charges after a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency review board unanimously recommended the continuation of an initial investigation.
Armstrong, 40, who could be stripped of his titles, and five others also accused will be offered the opportunity for a public hearing before a three-person arbitration panel, USADA said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.
If they agree to the hearing, “all evidence would be presented, witness testimony would be given under oath, and an independent group of arbitrators would ultimately decide the outcome of the case,” Colorado Springs, Colorado-based USADA said in the statement.
Robert Luskin, one of Armstrong’s attorneys, said in an e-mailed statement that his client “will consider all of his options for preserving his record and his good name” over the next few days.
“USADA’s decision to charge Lance Armstrong with doping violations is wrong and it is baseless,” Luskin said. “It is the entirely predictable product of USADA’s toxic obsession with Lance Armstrong and a process in which truth is not a priority. There is not one shred of credible evidence to support USADA’s charges and an unbroken record of more than 500 clean tests over more than a decade and a half to refute it.”
Armstrong, who won cycling’s most prestigious event every year from 1999-2005, also has been banned from participating in events organized by the World Triathlon Corp., which runs the Ironman series and considers athletes who are facing open USADA investigations ineligible.
Doug Ulman, chief executive officer of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which the cyclist founded in 1997 to help cancer survivors, issued a statement saying “we are concerned about the integrity and oversight of this proceeding and hope that Lance will be given the opportunity he deserves to assert his innocence.”
In its June 12 initial charging letter to Armstrong, three doctors and two officials from the cyclist’s former U.S. Postal Service team, USADA said that if the case proceeded beyond the review board it would recommend a sanction that “may include up to a lifetime period of ineligibility from participation in sport.”
The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles in February ended a criminal investigation into doping allegations against Armstrong without pressing charges. He never has been publicly identified as testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
USADA’s allegations against Armstrong include what the agency says are blood samples collected from him in 2009 and 2010 that were “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”
EPO is the abbreviation for erythropoietin, which can add energy-boosting properties to blood. Doping authorities say that drug, and transfused blood, have been used by athletes in endurance sports such as cycling and cross-country skiing to increase performance.
After retiring from competitive cycling, Armstrong has helped bring more attention to triathlons since returning to the sport this year. Before the ban he was trying to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in October.