Armstrong 'at centre of doping scheme'

Salisbury Journal: Lance Armstrong has always denied any involvement with doping Lance Armstrong has always denied any involvement with doping

Lance Armstrong's reputation is in tatters after the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) labelled him a "serial" cheat who led "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".

USADA has released the reasons, which includes evidence from 11 of Armstrong's former team-mates, behind its decision to strip him of his seven Tour de France titles and hand him a lifetime ban.

Armstrong decided earlier this year not to contest the USADA charges, but he has always denied any involvement with doping and his lawyer Sean E Breen denounced the action as "a patently unfair, rigged process". But, according to USADA chief executive Travis T Tygart, there was "conclusive and undeniable proof" of a team-run doping conspiracy at Armstrong's US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team.

The 'reasoned decision' document said: "USADA has found proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Lance Armstrong engaged in serial cheating through the use, administration and trafficking of performance-enhancing drugs and methods and that Armstrong participated in running in the US Postal Service Team as a doping conspiracy."

The former team-mates who gave evidence against Armstrong were Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.

USADA claimed Armstrong, 41, supplied banned drugs to other riders on the team, pressured them into participating in the doping programme and threatened to get them removed from the team if they refused.

The document said: "His goal (of winning the Tour de France multiple times) led him to depend on EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions but also, more ruthlessly, to expect and to require that his team-mates would likewise use drugs to support his goals if not their own."

Breen told BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday that Armstrong had no wish to engage in the USADA process. He said: "He didn't contest them (the allegations) in the USADA form because it's a patently unfair, rigged process and he was going to lose. There wasn't any doubt about it. They had the cards stacked."

The only apparent reaction from Armstrong himself came in the form of a tweet, which read: "What am I doing tonight? Hanging with my family, unaffected, and thinking about this," with a link to his Livestrong website.

USADA alleged Armstrong's doping programme was organised by Dr Michele Ferrari, a consultant to the US Postal Service team. Ferrari and Dr Garcia del Moral have also received lifetime bans for their part in the doping conspiracy. Three others, Johan Bruyneel, who is now in charge of the RadioShack-Nissan team, a team doctor Dr Pedro Celaya and team trainer Jose Marti, have chosen to contest the charges and take their cases to arbitration.

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