Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was effectively the director of a massive and elaborate doping programme across his entire cycling team, according to a landmark report from the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Following revelations in August that Armstrong had withdrawn his case against the evidence USADA had built – thereby sacrificing each and every one of his Tour titles – the Agency’s final Reasoned Decision on that evidence has slammed the USPS/Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team for operating as a fully-functional doping cartel, with Armstrong calling the shots.
“Armstrong had ultimate control over not only his own personal drug use, which was extensive, but also over the doping culture of his team,” USADA said. “Final responsibility for decisions to hire and retain a director, doctors and other staff committed to running a team-wide doping programme ultimately flowed to him. On paper, Armstrong’s team contract provided him with ‘extensive input into rider and staff composition.’ In practice, however, as a team owner and by virtue of the power his rapidly accumulating titles conferred, his effective control was even greater.”
USADA noted the ambition conveyed in Armstrong’s original testimony to the Agency that he had “one goal” and “that was to win the greatest bike race in the world, and not just to win it once, but to keep winning it.”
“However,” the report added, “the path he chose to pursue that goal ran far outside the rules. His goal led him to depend on EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions but also, more ruthlessly, to expect and to require that his teammates would likewise use drugs to support his goals if not their own. The evidence is overwhelming that Lance Armstrong did not just use performance-enhancing drugs; he supplied them to his teammates. He did not merely go alone to Dr Michele Ferrari for doping advice, he expected that others would follow.
“It was not enough that his teammates give maximum effort on the bike; he also required that they adhere to the doping programme outlined for them or be replaced. He was not just a part of the doping culture on his team; he enforced and reinforced it.”
That doping scheme, said USADA, was “more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 in the wake of the report, British Cycling manager David Brailsford said that the sport has “completely and utterly lost its way and lost its moral compass. It is shocking, it’s jaw dropping and it is very unpleasant”. However, he added, there is hope that it can recover: “everybody has recalibrated and several teams like ourselves are hell-bent on doing it the right way and doing it clean.”