Your Guide to the Cluster that Is Lance Armstrong and Pro Cycling


If Lance Armstrong thought avoiding arbitration with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency would keep its case against him private, he was wrong: The USADA released a 202-page document outlining Armstrong’s alleged cheating, doping, and conspiring, all in order to win the Tour de France. It placed him very much in the center of “a massive team doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history,” making it clear that Armstrong was a driving force behind a systemic effort to win at nearly all costs.

Armstrong had no direct comment, but he tweeted a link to a video of Elliot Smith’s “Coming Up Roses.”

Although in the past Armstrong has attacked the USADA case as relying on hearsay and testimony by sources he said were untrustworthy, USADA’s evidence includes financial statements, emails, and test results, along with testimony by 26 individuals, including 15 who were connected to the U.S. Postal Service team and six who raced with Armstrong.

“The U.S.P.S. Team doping conspiracy was professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices,” said USADA. “A program organized by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today.”

The fallout wasn’t just limited to Armstrong, though. Here are some of the day’s events or new information:

  • George Hincapie, former Armstrong teammate, once one of Armstrong’s best friends, and one of the most respected racers in cycling, confessed to doping.
  • Levi Leipheimer confessed to doping and was suspended by his team, Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
  • Christian Vande Velde confessed to doping.
  • Dave Zabriskie confessed to doping.
  • Jonathan Vaughters confessed to doping.
  • Tom Danielson confessed to doping
  • Michael Barry confessed to doping.
  • Retroactive testing found EPO in six of Armstrong’s urine samples from the 1999 Tour de France.
  • Armstrong paid more than $1 million to Dr. Michele Ferrari, the Italian doctor who has been implicated in doping, over a period of 10 years, including prior to his cancer diagnosis, according to the USADA, which traced the financial transactions. Tyler Hamilton testified that he saw Ferrari inject Armstrong with EPO.

What’s next in the saga? Cycling’s international governing body, UCI, has 21 days to review USADA’s case and file an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Once it makes its decision, the World Anti-Doping Agency has 21 days to appeal.


USADA Statement

USADA’s Evidence Against Armstrong (PDF)

USADA Supporting Materials (rider affidavits, etc.)

Armstrong Was Central Figure in Doping Ring, Officials Say
New York Times
“Drug use was casual among the top riders, and some shared EPO — the banned blood booster erythropoietin — as if borrowing cups of sugar from a neighbor. In 2005, Hincapie on two occasions asked Armstrong, “Any EPO I could borrow?” and Armstrong obliged without question.”

Drug Case Against Armstrong Detailed
Wall Street Journal
“The evidence is also clear that Mr. Armstrong had ultimate control over not only his own personal drug use, which was extensive, but also over the doping culture of his team.”

“It was not enough that his teammates give maximum effort on the bike, he also required that they adhere to the doping program outlined for them or be replaced,” the report said.

Case Closed: Armstrong Doped
“You can choose not to believe any or all of the witnesses. You can choose to disregard the flashing neon arrows among the test results. You can somehow construe the $1 million in payments Armstrong made to the Swiss-based company of discredited trainer Michele Ferrari as legitimate medical expenses, or remarkably generous gifts. To discount all three elements of USADA’s case, and the way they overlap and intersect, is nothing less than being willfully blind.”

USADA Report Details Doping Evidence in Armstrong Case as Ex Teammates Come Forth
Boulder Report
“It is impossible to give the report even a glancing read and come away with any conclusion other than that Armstrong systematically doped for a great portion of his extraordinary career, that he enlisted teammates and staff in the effort, and that he aggressively went to great lengths to conceal it…All the more impressive is that USADA gathered all the evidence on its own, and quickly. USADA says that none of the evidence in its files came from the now-closed federal criminal investigation. Despite several requests, the Department of Justice has not provided a single piece of evidence.”

Statement from George Hincapie
“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. 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.”

Leipheimer: Why I Doped
Wall Street Journal
“Until recently—or maybe even until today—when people thought about doping, they thought about a guy, by himself, using banned substances to get ahead. What people didn’t realize—what I didn’t realize until after I was already committed to this career—was that doping was organized and everywhere in the peloton. Doping wasn’t the exception, it was the norm…I came to see cycling for what it was: a sport where some team managers and doctors coordinated and facilitated the use of banned substances and methods by their riders. A sport where the athletes at the highest level—perhaps without exception—used banned substances.”

Armstrong’s blood showed clear signs of manipulation in 2009
“Either Lance Armstrong’s blood is one-in-a-million or the former world champion cheated, according to new analysis of the Texan’s blood profiles.”

From Former Teammates, Words Tinged With Regret
New York Times
Dave Zabriskie: “Seeing what happened to my father from his substance abuse, I vowed never to take drugs. I viewed cycling as a healthy and wholesome outlet that would keep me far away from a world I abhorred…Ironically, the sport I had turned to for escaping drugs turned out to be rampant with doping…I questioned, I resisted, but in the end, I felt cornered and succumbed to the pressure.”

This Is What Honesty Looks Like
Wall Street Journal
“What these riders are truly agitated about in their confessions are not the syringes and substances, or even Armstrong, but an environment in which doping felt compulsory to survive, and silence is expected. That is how a sport develops and perpetuates a drug problem, and testing is clearly not the answer, even now. An entire culture must be broken. This report is the biggest step in the history of cycling.”

Return to Sender: Lance Armstrong and USPS Pro Cycling Team’s EPIC FAIL
“The true victim is not Armstrong, not the U.S. Government, not jilted competitors, or even disappointed fans. It is instead the sport of cycling, even Sport itself, and what that means for future athletes.”

Armstrong Foundation Still Thriving
“Lance Armstrong’s credibility has been attacked once again, with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency revealing its evidence against the cyclist Wednesday. But the foundation that bears his name is still pulling in significant dollars. Year-to-date revenues for the foundation, the largest athlete-named charity in the world, are up 2.1 percent to $33.8 million through Sept. 30…The number of donations is up by 5.4 percent versus 2011 and the average dollar amount of those donations is up 5.7 percent.”


How Armstrong Beat Cycling’s Drug Tests
New York Times
“As part of its investigation, Usada said that it recently obtained additional data from French officials who had retested Armstrong’s samples from the 1999 Tour de France. For procedural reasons, those samples cannot be used to sanction Armstrong. But the Usada report indicated that advances in EPO testing since then conclusively show that he used the hormone. The report said the retesting produced “resoundingly positive values” from six samples.”

IOC looks into revoking Armstrong’s Olympic medal
Los Angeles Times
“The International Olympic Committee announced on Thursday that it is looking into the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case against Lance Armstrong to see if it should strip Armstrong of his Olympic medal. Armstrong won the bronze medal in the time trial at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.”

Bradley Wiggins ‘Shocked’ By Evidence
Sky News
“Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins has told Sky News, ‘It’s pretty damning stuff. It is pretty jaw-dropping the amount of people who have testified against him. It is certainly not a one-sided hatchet job, it is pretty damning. I am shocked at the scale of the evidence.’”

Michele Ferrari could face charges
“The doctor who is a central figure in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal also is the target of an Italian criminal investigation that is nearing completion. ‘It’s not finished yet, but it’s coming to a close,’ Padua prosecutor Benedetto Roberti told The Associated Press on Thursday. Roberti has been leading a sweeping investigation of Dr. Michele Ferrari for several years…Doping is a crime in Italy, and Ferrari was already cleared on appeal in 2006 following an earlier conviction on criminal charges of distributing banned products to athletes. He remains barred for life by the Italian Cycling Federation under a 2002 ruling.”

Photo by Lev Radin /

{ 15 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Andreas

    Personally I’d love if people would compete with solely what they’ve been blessed with by nature. That’s what I do. My greatest competition is always against myself. But commercial sports is about money. Big money. And of course people involved in this business want to make it look clean. But that’s a myth, and we all know it, if we’d allow ourselves to face the truth. Every athlete involved in professional sports is improving and optimizing his/her performance in order to succeed, that’s a fact. They have to and they would be stupid not doing so. However, not every athlete takes to such extremes measures as heavy doping with illegal substances, but getting better and better is the very nature of competitive sports, right? From my perspective it shouldn’t be about hunting down a scapegoat, accusing him for doing it and so on. Personally, I’d advocate for accepting doping as a regular practice in professional sports and have it medically surveilled. Making practises public would at least improve the health of many athletes. I know this is not a very popular opinion.

  • Jodowa

    There is no taking away the fact that Lance is an exceptional, once in a lifetime athlete. To bad we’ll never know how things would have turned out if the history of cycling had been different.

    My problem though, is that I still have a very hard time understanding the point of this investigation. Maybe he did, or should I say, probably he did. Does it matter? My guess is that some day, near or far Armstrong comes clean, but he’ll do it on his terms and not USADA’s. The problem is not Armstrong’s, it’s the sport of cycling’s. Doping didn’t start with Lance and it didn’t end with him. Ok, so we’ve now moved on from focusing exclusively on one individual to an entire team that conspired to cheat. But again, they did so in an environment where all the teams were likely doing the same. So this just comes back to the same old witch hunt, now it’s not just Lance, but USPS.

    The UCI has been working hard to clean up the sport, why can’t we respect this and just admit that there was a widespread problem in the past? Let’s move on. We still have people getting caught, and even more still getting away with it. Spending so much time focusing on the past doesn’t help move things forward. If all the time and energy USADA put into this case had been put into the recent years races and events maybe we’d even closer to a completely clean sport. But no, we’ll send samples from years ago to have them tested and retested. Send all of the tests ever taken back for testing and how many will come back clean?

    I think doping is wrong. I think that Lance probably doped. But, I also think that cycling had a huge problem that was beyond the scope of this investigation and that focusing on individuals or teams doesn’t bring us any closer to a solution. If the USADA wants to clean things up then they should be working with the UCI on current testing and policies, not wasting money proving what we already kind of assumed.

    Lance Armstrong gave up the fight. Why, because he probably realized like me that it doesn’t really matter. Those that respected him for his winning attitude and the energy he put into winning are still going to respect him for his accomplishments and accept that it was all part of the history of cycling. And those that don’t won’t.

  • Alan

    Quite frankly, doping is part of the sport that is racing road bikes. If anyone thinks that Lance forced his team mates to dope and use enhancements, you are entitled to your opinion, but I disagree with you; it’s on the whole team and every other team that dopes up. I’ve been a part of the sport for a long time and in my opinion, Lance is a stud.

  • Cody

    All I have to say is check out the book by Tyler Hamilton, “The Secret Race.” It’s beautifully written, fully interesting, and is what I believe to be a very candid and plausible background into the whole damn thing.

  • S.L.

    I’ve gone back and forth on this issue and here’s what I’ve arrived at:

    The latest round of doping headlines are not about the dopers. It’s about the non-dopers who trained their asses off and made huge sacrifices for their respective sports. It’s for those people who were never quite able to make it to the pinnacle of the sport because they chose to stay clean. They sacrificed everything, only to watch the sponsorships, wins, and pro contracts go to the cheaters. There are dozens of riders knocking on the door of greatness who’s names we’ve never heard- because they raced clean.

  • Tim

    It’s sad that road bikers are so willing to say “Well, everyone else was doing it so it’s okay.” Dude cheated. He lied about it. He’s a douche bag. Don’t make excuses for him because he used to be your hero.

  • steven threndyle

    I totally agree with SL, above. Why must we throw up our hands and say ‘oh, that cheating, everyone does that?’ In Canada, we went through the utterly soul wrenching Dubin Inquiry when Ben Johnson (remember him?) was stripped of his Olympic gold medal because he was a steroid cheat. Usain Bolt is now, legitimately, the world’s fastest man and has smashed all of Johnson’s dirty records. This IS a victory for WADA. At the same time, I’m not thrilled by the jack boot tactics used by the USADA (from the sounds of it) – but they are shining a light in some very dark corners. Because someone has to.

  • Stephen

    This is what bugs me. If these other guys were bumming EPO off Armstrong, then why didn’t he get caught while the others did? If it was the same drug, that was detectable with the testing at the time, this makes no sense.

    They say NOW they can detect it in past samples, but what does that really mean? From what it seems like there are only a few possibilities:

    1. The USADA repeatedly did a half-assed job of testing all those years, if he used the same drugs as everyone else.
    2. Armstrong used a drug that was undetectable at the time and didn’t share. (But kept the standard detectable EPO on hand for his friends.)
    or 3. Armstrong had nothing in his system to detect.

    Of all these, Occam’s Razor suggests that option 3 is the most likely because it makes the least assumptions.

  • james

    @Stephen: Q “If these other guys were bumming EPO off Armstrong, then why didn’t he get caught while the others did?”
    A: Not all got caught. Hincapie, who on occasion got his EPO from Lance, was never caught. Hincapie has admitted to EPO use. Thus, not being caught is not the same as not using. Hincapie shows this is fact; there is no assumption. Since Occam’s Razor looks for the least assumptions, the case with no assumptions is the most plausible.

  • circustrainer

    As a spectator I think its great to see what the human body can do to its maximum. Why is it wrong to take it up a notch with some performance inhancing drugs?. I mean Monsanto does it world wide with GMO enhanced food and everyone is eating that and I dont see them getting trashed……..yet.

  • Jodowa

    S.L.: I agree that it’s a shame that the “clean” racers, if there were many, of Armstrong’s era never had a chance to compete fairly, but I have a hard time blaming Lance for that. It was a sport-wide problem, not a single person. That’s why I believe that it doesn’t matter, the sport has (hopefully) cleaned up on it’s own, not because of anything USADA has done. To me it just sounds like they’re out after some credibility, after not doing a very good job at they were supposed to be doing. If all this went on without them catching on, then really, how can we believe they are any better at their job now? Because they’re good at catching people that have already given up the sport?

    And so back to all those who raced “fairly”. Why didn’t they blow the whistle? If you knew that “everyone else” was doped and that you didn’t have a chance unless you did to, then really you only have two chances at being successful (assuming it’s impossible to have won in that era without doping, which is essentially what is Usada is saying in this case), one dope yourself, or do what ever you can to get to those who are caught so that the only ones left likely were clean. Regardless, at this point it’s a moot point, we’ll never know for sure who was clean and who wasn’t. So really I don’t see how this investigation moves the sport in a positive direction.

    Cycling is still a relatively fringe sport, and digging up old news doesn’t really make it much more relevant, maybe just more interesting from a media perspective. Better to effort into making the sport what we want today, not complaining about a past we can’t change.

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