Life-time bans add to Armstrong pressure
The pressure has mounted on America’s seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong as three former close associates were banned for life from sport by the US Anti-Doping Agency.
Former US Postal doctor Luis Garcia del Moral, Armstrong’s personal trainer and consultant to the team Michele Ferrari and coach “Pepe” Marti were handed life-time bans for their roles in what USADA termed “systematic doping within the team”.
“Permanently banning these individuals from sport is a powerful statement that protects the current and next generation of athletes from their influence, and preserves the integrity of future competition,” read a statement by USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart on Tuesday.
This trio are part of the group of six, including Armstrong, who were accused by USADA in June of being part of a doping conspiracy during his years as Tour de France champion (1996-2001), the move coming four months after a two-year US government probe into Armstrong ended with no criminal charges.
Another doctor Pedro Celaya, who is presently team doctor to the RadioShack team, and sporting director Johan Bruyneel are also accused of being involved.
The RadioShack team presently lead the team category in the Tour de France, though Bruyneel opted not to come to the race after the accusations were made.
Armstrong has never tested positive, and says he has taken more than 500 drug tests in his career.
USADA claims to have nearly a dozen former Armstrong associates willing to testify against him and also to have blood samples from more recent events that indicate doping by Armstrong.
USADA has not made public the names of those witnesses, saying it wants to protect them from possible intimidation.
Armstrong has countered that witnesses, such as admitted dope cheat Floyd Landis, aren’t credible, while others may have grudges against him.
The New York Times reported last week that former Armstrong teammates George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie are among those set to testify against Armstrong. All four are in this year’s Tour de France field.
Armstrong also argues that any such investigation should be pursued by the International Cycling Union rather than USADA.© AFP 2013
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