Nike stand by Armstrong despite revelations that disgraced American was at centre of biggest drugs plot in history of sport
10:10 GMT, 11 October 2012
Nike are refusing to cut their ties with Lance Armstrong despite his role as ringleader in 'the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme sport has ever seen'.
Armstrong's myth as a cycling hero has been blown to pieces by evidence exposing the seven-time Tour de France winner.
Despite the mounting backlash against the one-time icon, Armstrong's main sponsor Nike continue to back him.
After the latest revelations emerged, Nike re-released the same statement first issued in August. It reads: 'We are saddened that Lance Armstrong may no longer be able to participate in certain competitions and his titles appear to be impacted.
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Support: Lance Armstrong continues to wear the Nike swoosh on his gear
Disgraced: Armstrong's career achievements have been tarnished
USADA's reasoned decision
Click here to read the reasoned decision from the USADA
'Lance has stated his innocence and has
been unwavering on this position. Nike plans to continue to support
Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance
created to serve cancer survivors.'
Nike, the world's biggest sportswear brand, have long sponsored Armstrong and his Livestrong charity that has raised money to help cancer survivors and research. Since 2004, Nike has helped Livestrong raise over $100million as well as creating the famous yellow wristbands that have been sold 84m times.
Trek Bicycle Corp also sponsor Arrmstrong and the US company confirmed it is monitoring developments. Trek also sells Livestrong branded bikes.
On Wednesday, the US Anti-Doping Agency released a 200-page report revealing in minute detail how Armstrong:
Surrounded himself with drug runners and doping doctorsBullied team-mates into using his methodsIntimidated witnessesRepeatedly lied to investigatorsPulled out of a race to avoid a test.
No fewer than 11 team-mates testified against him, leaving USADA with 'no doubt that Mr Armstrong's career (from 1998-2005) was fuelled from start to finish by doping'.
The report says: 'Armstrong and his handlers engaged in a massive and long-running scheme to use drugs, cover their tracks, intimidate witnesses, tarnish reputations, lie to hearing panels and the press and do whatever was necessary to conceal the truth.'
It adds that his goal to win the Tour de France 'led him to depend on EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions but also, more ruthlessly, to expect and require that his team-mates would likewise use drugs to support his goals'.
Lying again: Armstrong has a medical test before the 2002 Tour
THE JOURNALISTS WHO REFUSED TO LET ARMSTRONG ESCAPE
Two journalists have campaigned for a decade to expose Armstrong as a drugs cheat. Sunday Times sportswriter David Walsh led the way, with the co-author of his book, L.A. Confidentiel, Pierre Ballester, as well as the former Tour de France rider and journalist Paul Kimmage.
Walsh discovered Armstrong was working with Dr Michele Ferrari, an Italian coach who was suspected of administering EPO.
Walsh tweeted: 'In the war on doping, this is a seminal moment. An untouchable is about to be exposed, one who believed he was protected by his own sport.'
Kimmage, the author of Rough Ride, about his own experiences with drugs as a professional cyclist in the 1980s, confronted Armstrong at his comeback in 2009.
In a heated exchange between the two, Kimmage, who has also written for the Daily Mail, repeated his earlier claim that Armstrong represented 'the cancer of doping'.
More recently, cycling's world governing body the UCI announced that they are suing Kimmage for his claims that they are 'corrupt'. Supporters of Kimmage have raised more than $50,000 to help him.
The dossier, described as 'jaw-dropping' by British Cycling performance director David Brailsford, was delivered to the headquarters of cycling's world governing body, the UCI. It is based on the sworn testimony of 26 people, including 15 cyclists who were involved in, or had knowledge of, the doping conspiracy. It also uses scientific evidence and bank records.
But the report has also been described as 'one-sided hatchet job,' the cyclist's lawyer have said.
'We have seen the press release from USADA touting the upcoming release today of its “reasoned decision,”' Armstrong lawyer Sean Breen said.
'(The) statement confirms the alleged “reasoned decision” from USADA will be a one-sided hatchet job – a taxpayer-funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat-induced stories,'
Breen also said the agency was 'ignoring the 500-600 tests Lance Armstrong passed, ignoring all exculpatory evidence, and trying to justify the millions of dollars USADA has spent pursuing one, single athlete for years.'
He added: 'USADA has continued its government-funded witch hunt of only Mr Armstrong, a retired cyclist, in violation of its own rules and due process, in spite of USADA’s lack of jurisdiction, in blatant violation of the statute of limitations.'
Armstrong led the US Postal team from 1998, when he launched a comeback after recovering from cancer, to 2005, when he retired after winning a record seventh Tour. Travis Tygart, the head of USADA, said that during this period 'Armstrong acted as a ringleader and intimidated people who spoke out about doping'.
It amounted, said Tygart, to a 'doping conspiracy professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair advantage.
'The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service pro cycling team ran the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen.'
The report also alleges that Armstrong paid more than $1million (625,000) to a Swiss bank account controlled by Dr Michele Ferrari, an Italian coach who has consistently been linked to doping and who stands accused by USADA of administering banned products.
USADA spent five months building a case
against Armstrong, his former team director and three doctors connected
to his former team, including Ferrari.
Shamed: Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles
Five individuals connected to the team – the former director, Johan Bruyneel, Ferrari, two other doctors and Armstrong – were charged with doping offences in June and given until August 24 to respond. Armstrong opted not to contest the charges, instead releasing a statement that accused USADA of a 'witch-hunt'.
Brailsford said: It is shocking, it’s jaw dropping and it is very unpleasant, it’s not very palatable and anybody who says it is would be lying wouldn’t they’
‘You can see how the sport got lost in itself and got more and more extreme because it seemed to be systematic and everybody seemed to be doing it at the time – it completely and utterly lost its way and I think it lost its moral compass.'
He added: ‘Everybody has recalibrated and several teams like ourselves are hell-bent on doing it the right way and doing it clean. ‘The challenge is that it is understandable now for people to look at any results in cycling and question that.’
The 15 riders who testified to the agency include six active riders who have all been given reduced six-month bans for their co-operation. Tygart said: 'Lance Armstrong was given the same opportunity to come forward and be part of the solution. He rejected it.'
Among the riders who testified were George Hincapie and Michael Barry. Hincapie is one of Armstrong's closest friends, and the only man who rode by his side for all seven Tour victories. Barry has ridden for Team Sky for the past three seasons. Both retired recently.
End of the road: Armstrong has been accused of being involved in a sophisticated doping programme
In a statement released on Wednesday night, Barry said that, when he turned professional with US Postal in 2002, he quickly realised that 'doping had become an epidemic problem in professional cycling'.
'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.'
Vande Velde, 36, described Wednesday as the 'most humbling moment' of his life and added: 'I was wrong to think I didn't have a choice – I did, and I chose wrong. Ironically, I never won while doping.'
The testimony of Hincapie, who also took the step of releasing a confessional statement, is arguably the most damning. While Armstrong has dismissed others who have spoken out, such as Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, pointing out that both were discredited after failing drug tests,
Hincapie has never failed a drug test, and, more to the point, never fell foul of Armstrong. Indeed, Armstrong has previously described Hincapie as his 'best bro in the peloton'.
On Wednesday, however, Hincapie admitted that, when approached two years ago by US government investigators, he admitted to more than just his own doping: '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.'
Testifying: Armstrong's former team-mates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton
The USADA report claims that in 2010,
while under federal investigation, Armstrong tried to persuade Hincapie
to remain in Europe 'to avoid or delay testifying'. In his evidence to
USADA, Hincapie revealed that, at a race in Spain in 2000, Armstrong
told him he 'had just taken testosterone'.
Hincapie then found out that drug
testers were waiting at their hotel. 'I texted Lance to warn him to
avoid the place. As a result, Lance dropped out of the race.'
The report recounts Armstrong's and
his team's use of drugs in eye-watering detail. It claims that, during
Armstrong's Tour victory in 2000 he, Hamilton and Kevin Livingston had a
'The whole process took less than 30
minutes,' said Hamilton. 'Kevin Livingston and I received our
transfusions in one room and Lance got his in an adjacent room with an
adjoining door. Each blood bag was placed on a hook for a picture frame
or taped to the wall and we lay on the bed and shivered while the chilly
blood re-entered our bodies.'
Tested: Lance Armstrong walks out of the doping control center during the 2002 Tour De France
Confession: Michael Barry admitted to doping
Armstrong's blood samples from his
third comeback, in 2009 and 2010, were also analysed by USADA. They
concluded there was a 'one in a million' chance that Armstrong was not
doping in these years.
The report also raises the
possibility that cycling's governing body, the UCI, helped to suppress a
positive test for Armstrong. During the 2001 Tour of Switzerland the
anti-doping laboratory in Lausanne detected a number of samples that
were 'suspicious for the presence of EPO'.
When the head of the lab reported
this to the UCI, 'he was told by the UCI's medical commission head that
at least one of these samples belonged to Mr Armstrong, but that there
was no way Mr Armstrong was using EPO'.
USADA requested the test results for
re-analysis, using more sophisticated techniques, but 'UCI denied that
request, stating that UCI had asked for Mr Armstrong's consent but that
he had refused'.
Apart from the doping charges, USADA
also accuses Armstrong of being 'engaged in an effort to procure false
affidavits from potential witnesses'. Through emails sent in August
2010, they claim Armstrong 'attempted to contact former team-mates and
others…and asked them to sign affidavits affirming that there was no
'systematic' doping on the US Postal cycling team.
'Such affidavits would be materially
false, as Mr Armstrong was well aware that systematic doping had
occurred on his teams. Consequently, Mr Armstrong's efforts constituted
an attempt to subvert the judicial system and procure false testimony.'
Armstrong has yet to respond to the USADA report, but in an interview last week he said: 'My conscience is perfectly clear.'
FULL STATEMENT FROM USADA
Today, we are sending the 'Reasoned Decision' in the Lance Armstrong case and supporting information to the Union Cycliste International (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen.
The evidence of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team-run scheme is overwhelming and is in excess of 1,000 pages, and includes sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the US Postal Service Team (USPS Team) and its participants' doping activities.
The evidence also 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.
Together these different categories of eyewitness, documentary, first-hand, scientific, direct and circumstantial evidence reveal conclusive and undeniable proof that brings to the light of day for the first time this systemic, sustained and highly professionalised team-run doping conspiracy. All of the material will be made available later this afternoon on the USADA website at www.usada.org.
The USPS 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. A programme organised by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today.
The evidence demonstrates that the 'code of silence' of performance enhancing drug use in the sport of cycling has been shattered, but there is more to do. From day one, we always hoped this investigation would bring to a close this troubling chapter in cycling's history and we hope the sport will use this tragedy to prevent it from ever happening again.
Of course, no-one wants to be chained to the past forever, and I would call on the UCI to act on its own recent suggestion for a meaningful truth and reconciliation programme. While we appreciate the arguments that weigh in favour of and against such a program, we believe that allowing individuals like the riders mentioned today to come forward and acknowledge the truth about their past doping may be the only way to truly dismantle the remaining system that allowed this 'EPO and blood doping era' to flourish. Hopefully, the sport can unshackle itself from the past, and once and for all continue to move forward to a better future.
Our mission is to protect clean athletes by preserving the integrity of competition not only for today's athletes but also the athletes of tomorrow. We have heard from many athletes who have faced an unfair dilemma – dope, or don't compete at the highest levels of the sport. Many of them abandoned their dreams and left sport because they refused to endanger their health and participate in doping. That is a tragic choice no athlete should have to make.
It took tremendous courage for the riders on the USPS Team and others to come forward and speak truthfully. It is not easy to admit your mistakes and accept your punishment. But that is what these riders have done for the good of the sport, and for the young riders who hope to one day reach their dreams without using dangerous drugs or methods.
These eleven (11) team-mates of Lance Armstrong, in alphabetical order, are Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.
The riders who participated in the USPS Team doping conspiracy and truthfully assisted have been courageous in making the choice to stop perpetuating the sporting fraud, and they have suffered greatly. In addition to the public revelations, the active riders have been suspended and disqualified appropriately in line with the rules.
In some part, it would have been easier for them if it all would just go away; however, they love the sport, and they want to help young athletes have hope that they are not put in the position they were – to face the reality that in order to climb to the heights of their sport they had to sink to the depths of dangerous cheating.
I have personally talked with and heard these athletes' stories and firmly believe that, collectively, these athletes, if forgiven and embraced, have a chance to leave a legacy far greater for the good of the sport than anything they ever did on a bike.
Lance Armstrong was given the same opportunity to come forward and be part of the solution. He rejected it.
Instead he exercised his legal right not to contest the evidence and knowingly accepted the imposition of a ban from recognised competition for life and disqualification of his competitive results from 1998 forward.
The entire factual and legal basis on the outcome in his case and the other six active riders' cases will be provided in the materials made available online later today. Two other members of the USPS Team, Dr Michele Ferrari and Dr Garcia del Moral, also received lifetime bans for perpetrating this doping conspiracy.
Three other members of the USPS Team have chosen to contest the charges and take their cases to arbitration: Johan Bruyneel, the team director; Dr Pedro Celaya, a team doctor; and Jose 'Pepe' Marti, the team trainer. These three individuals will receive a full hearing before independent judges, where they will have the opportunity to present and confront the evidence, cross-examine witnesses and testify under oath in a public proceeding.
From day one in this case, as in every potential case, the USADA board of directors and professional staff did the job we are mandated to do for clean athletes and the integrity of sport. We focused solely on finding the truth without being influenced by celebrity or non-celebrity, threats, personal attacks or political pressure because that is what clean athletes deserve and demand.'
LANCE ARMSTRONG FACTFILE
1971: Born September 18, in Dallas.
1991: Signs with Subaru-Montgomery and becomes US national amateur champion.
1993: Crowned US national champion. Wins first stage in Tour de France but fails to finish. Beats Miguel Indurain to win world championship.
1994: Wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege spring classic.
1996: October 2 – Diagnosed with testicular cancer. The disease later spreads through his whole body. Founds Lance Armstrong Foundation for Cancer.
1997: Declared cancer-free after brain surgery and chemotherapy. Signs with US Postal Service team after being dropped by Cofidis.
1998: Wins Tours of Holland and Luxembourg.
1999: Claims first Tour de France title, winning four stages.
2000: Wins second Tour. Secures time-trial bronze in Sydney Olympics.
2001: Victorious in Tour of Switzerland.
July 29: Becomes only the fifth rider to win three Tour de France titles in a row.
2002: Wins Dauphine Libere and Midi Libre.
July 28: Becomes only the fourth person to win four successive Tour de France titles.
2003: Equals the record of five victories in the Tour de France, but is pushed to his limit by German Jan Ullrich, who finishes just 61 seconds off the pace.
2004: July 25 – Clinches record sixth Tour de France victory.
2005: July 24 – Wins his seventh Tour de France, two more than anyone else, before retiring.
September 6 – Claims he is considering coming out of retirement after being angered by drug allegations against him.
2008: September 9 – Announces he will return to professional cycling and will attempt to win his eighth Tour de France in 2009.
2009: March 23 – Suffers a broken right collarbone when he crashes out on stage one of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon in Spain.
May – Appears in first Giro d'Italia, finishing 12th. Tour is somewhat marred by financial cloud over Armstrong's Astana team and the American is linked to a takeover.
June – Astana's financial issues are resolved and Armstrong is named in the Tour de France team, but with 2007 champion Alberto Contador of Spain as leader.
July – Contador and Armstrong endure a fractious relationship. Contador claims a second Tour title, while Armstrong finishes third. Armstrong announces he will launch his own squad in 2010, Team Radio Shack.
2010: January – Team Radio Shack make their debut at the Tour Down Under in Australia. Armstrong finishes 25th overall.
May – Armstrong's former US Postal team-mate Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping, launches allegations at the Texan.
June 28 – Announces that the 2010 Tour de France will be his last.
July – Finishes final Tour in 23rd place, 39 minutes and 20 seconds behind winner Contador.
2011: February 16 – Announces retirement for second time.
May – Forced to deny claims made by former team-mate Tyler Hamilton that they took performance-enhancing drugs together.
2012: February 4 – An investigation into alleged doping by Armstrong is dropped by federal prosecutors in California.
June 13 – The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) confirm they have initiated legal proceedings over allegations of doping against Armstrong.
June 30 – The USADA confirm they will file formal doping charges against Armstrong.
July 9 – Armstrong files a lawsuit in a US federal court asking for a temporary restraining order against the agency. Armstrong also claims the USADA offered “corrupt inducements” to other cyclists to testify against him.
July 11 – Armstrong refiles lawsuit against the USADA after initial lawsuit was dismissed by a judge as being a “lengthy and bitter polemic”, designed to attract media attention and public sympathy.
August 20 – Armstrong's legal action against the USADA dismissed in court.
August 24 – Armstrong announces he will not fight the doping charges filed against him by the USADA, saying in a statement he is “finished with this nonsense” and insisting he is innocent. He is stripped of all his titles banned for life from cycling by USADA.
October 10 – USADA claim 11 of Armstrong's former team-mates have testified against him. The organisation say the US Postal Service team “ran the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”, with “conclusive and undeniable proof” of a team-run doping conspiracy.
VIDEO: USADA explains drug test procedures