What A Mess…

by CyclingTips


You might have read all over the newspapers today that the USADA (US Anti-doping Agency) has brought formal doping charges against Lance Armstrong that could cost him his seven Tour de France titles, according to a letter sent to Armstrong and several others. He’s even been banned from competing triathlon where he just got his second Half Iron Man victory. I was wondering when the usual pre-Tour de France scandal was going to come out…

UPDATE: If you want to read the leaked letter from the USADA to Armstrong and associates to the WSJ, download it here (pdf).

You may remember back in February that Federal Prosecutors suddenly decided to close their case against Armstrong without filing charges on the eve of the Superbowl. What’s important to understand here is that the prosecutors did not build a case around doping charges. Doping in sport is not federal crime in the US and the case was built around tax fraud and other charges related to the violation of the USPS sponsorship contract which prohibited doping.

Although USADA does not subpoena power, they have the authority follow up with the Federal Prosecutor’s work and bring charges that could lead to suspension from competition and the rescinding of his seven Tour de France victories. According to the Washington Post, the letter sent to by the USADA, “alleges that Armstrong and five former cycling team associates — three doctors including Italian physician Michele Ferrari, one trainer and team manager Johan Bruyneel— engaged in a massive doping conspiracy from 1998 to 2011, and that “the witnesses to the conduct described in this letter include more than ten (10) cyclists …”

And Bruyneel thought he had problems with the Schlecks (BTW, Andy is out of the TdF with a broken sacral)…

Armstrong’s Response to the USDA’s Allegations which is much more pointed than we’ve heard from him previously:

AUSTIN, TX — June 13, 2012 — I have been notified that USADA, an organization largely funded by taxpayer dollars but governed only by self-written rules, intends to again dredge up discredited allegations dating back more than 16 years to prevent me from competing as a triathlete and try and strip me of the seven Tour de France victories I earned. These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation. These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity. Although USADA alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy extended over more than 16 years, I am the only athlete it has chosen to charge. USADA’s malice, its methods, its star-chamber practices, and its decision to punish first and adjudicate later all are at odds with our ideals of fairness and fair play.

I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one. That USADA ignores this fundamental distinction and charges me instead of the admitted dopers says far more about USADA, its lack of fairness and this vendetta than it does about my guilt or innocence.

What now?

What I find most interesting about this is a wonderful infographic by Charlie Layton printed in Bicycling magazine in 2011. What will happen to Lance’s seven Tour de France titles? We already saw Contador’s 2010 title go to Andy Schleck. That’s a fairly straight forward decision. However, it could be speculated that the winners of Lance’s TdF wins could be:

1999: Alex Zulle? He was caught for doping previously but never tested positive in 1999. If not, then Fernando Escartín?
2000: Jan Ullrich? Well, he’s already admitted his mistakes, but he never tested positive. If not, Fernando Escartín again?
2001: Jan Ullrich again? The German Cycling Federation (BDR) has even banned him from Cyclosportifes. Maybe the deceased Kivilev then?
2002: Beloki maybe? He wasn’t caught for doing anything dodgy at the time. Maybe José Azevedo then?
2003: Maybe Ullrich was clean this year. If not, then Haimar Zubeldia is the new winner.
2004: Andreas Klöden is next in line. Even though guilty by association, you gotta love Klödi. If not, José Azevedo wins again.
2005: Basso? Was he on the gear at this time? Maybe Cadel Evans then. I’ll support that.

The UCI released some comments from the PCC (Professional Cycling Council) meeting relating to disqualifications that might help deal with this:

“Among other decisions taken at the meeting, the PCC offered its support to a request by Association Internationale des Organisateurs des Courses Cyclistes (AIOCC – organisers’ association) that aims to limit reclassification after the disqualification of a rider under Art. 2.6.037 to the first three riders of the general classification.
Under the proposal, forwarded to the UCI Management Committee by the PCC, if the disqualified rider has not placed on the podium, his or her position will remain blank in the results.”

According to the referenced UCI rule 2.6.037, it states:

2.6.037: If a rider is disqualified after the result of the race has been sanctioned, the general individual classification shall be adjusted, if applicable, for the first 20 places only. ?If a rider is disqualified because of a violation committed during a stage that he won, the second rider on the stage takes the first place.

If the winner of another classification than the general individual classification is disqualified, the second rider on that classification takes the first place. For the rest the place of the disqualified rider shall be left open.

Whatever happens to these seven Tour de France titles, the USADA’s final decision will be largely symbolic and the only thing that can possibly be done to make things right is put an asterisk beside these years and move on. Nullifying these years would make even more of a farce out of cycling at a time where it’s finally cleaning up its image. It’s unfortunate that this drama has to drag on through this time when racing is as exciting as ever.

From Bicycling Magazine, May 2011 (www.bicycling.com), produced by Charlie Layton (www.charlielayton.com)

The thing to note from this diagram is that the riders in black: Admitted to doping or were banned or suspended by a sanctioning group for doping; Suspended or fired by their teams or individually withdrew from races for some connection to doping; Were convicted of doping or paid a fine to settle charges related to it. Riders in black did not necessarily test positive in that particular Tour de France.