Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lance Armstrong Investigation: Lifetime Bans and Real Heroes

While Lance Armstrong is fighting USADA to try to stop them from taking away his seven Tour de France titles, three of those who have been accused with Lance as being part of a doping conspiracy have, apparently, quietly conceded to receive lifetime bans from any involvement in cycling. According to VeloNation, the three include two doctors: Michele Ferrari and Luis Garcia del Moral and the team trainer, Pepe Marti. The article continued by saying:

Three others are also facing charges in relation to an alleged serious doping conspiracy at the US Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams, namely Lance Armstrong, former US Postal Service and current RadioShack team manger Johan Bruyneel and RadioShack Nissan team doctor Pedro Celaya. Armstrong and Bruyneel are understood to have requested a five day extension beyond yesterday’s initial deadline. ... It is not currently clear if Celaya has also requested an extension, or if he has opted for an arbitration hearing.
The full USADA statement as published in VeloNation, gave the following details about the roles that the two doctors and the trainer played in the alleged doping conspiracy:
Dr. del Moral, of Valencia, Spain, was the team physician for the USPS Cycling Team from 1999 through 2003. Until recently Dr. del Moral was affiliated with a sports medicine clinic in Valencia, Spain. USADA’s evidence is that after 2003, Dr. del Moral assisted individual cyclists, including a number of former USPS team members, with their doping. The evidence in Dr. del Moral’s case demonstrated that from 2000 he was intimately involved in the prohibited method of blood transfusions which cyclists use to boost the number of circulating red blood cells to increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and increase endurance. Dr. del Moral brought riders to his sports medicine clinic in Valencia, Spain where he withdrew blood for prohibited blood transfusions. Dr. del Moral also assisted with saline infusions in order to keep the rider’s blood levels below threshold levels to avoid detection of their drug use. In addition to blood transfusions and saline infusions, Dr. del Moral administered banned performance- enhancing drugs including EPO, testosterone, corticosteroids and hGH to cyclists by providing these drugs to them, recommending the use of these drugs and directly injecting riders with these prohibited drugs.
Dr. Ferrari, of Ferrara, Italy was a consulting doctor to numerous USPS and Discovery Channel Cycling Team riders during the period from at least 1999 through 2006. Since the 1990s to the present, Dr. Ferrari has been a consultant to numerous cyclists and several cycling teams. Dr. Ferrari was brought to several USPS training camps, including in the United States, where USPS team riders worked with him. Dr. Ferrari developed a distinctive mixture of testosterone and olive oil to be administered under the tongue to assist in recovery during races and training. This mixture was known among team members as the “oil.” Dr. Ferrari also advised riders on the use of the banned oxygen enhancer erythropoietin (“EPO”) with detailed instructions regarding clearance times, how the EPO drug test worked and how to avoid detection of the drug. Dr. Ferrari specifically advised riders to inject EPO intravenously in order to avoid the drug showing up in a urine drug test. Dr. Ferrari was present and assisted during instances of prohibited blood doping and EPO use by USPS team members. Dr. Ferrari developed detailed training schedules for riders which included coded symbols designating when EPO should be used and the amount of the drug to inject.
Mr. Martí, also of Valencia, Spain, was a trainer for the USPS and Discovery Channel Cycling Teams during the period from 1999 through 2007 and thereafter worked for the Astana Cycling Team. Mr. Martí delivered performance-enhancing drugs, including EPO, testosterone, human growth hormone (hGH) and cortisone from Valencia, Spain to locations where the riders were living in Europe including Nice, France and Girona, Spain and at training camps and cycling races. Mr. Martí was also involved in assisting with injections of EPO, saline infusions for avoiding detection by drug testing and in transfusing blood to riders.
CyclingNews had the following quote from USADA CEO, Travis Tygart:
"The respondents chose not to waste resources by moving forward with the arbitration process, which would only reveal what they already know to be the truth of their doping activity."
I found this statement to be telling. I think it's fair to say, and perhaps a huge understatement, that Tygart believes that the others who were involved in this doping conspiracy are wasting resources.

As for me, it's an ironic pattern that I've seen in many fraud and corruption cases that fraudsters often accuse the people who are trying to discipline them of wasting resources. They do so in an effort to gain political support to stop the agencies from disciplining them. All the while, the truth is that the fraudsters who won't take responsibility for their actions are the ones who are wasting massive resources as they fight efforts to hold them accountable.

Sadly, only a pitiful soul will, in the face of years of evidence and even testimony from those who were once his closest associates, fight and claw and scrap until the bitter end. Such a soul has no regard for wasting others resources nor does he care about his friends. My hat is off to all those who have struggled, sacrificed and fought to expose the truth in this massive doping scandal that has plagued pro cycling for over a decade now.

Two facts are important to keep in mind. First, we know that over three-fourths of Lance's teammates when he won the Tour de France have been found to be dopers (this guest post by Mark Fellows details much of this but, of course, doesn't include the latest additions) and, because they quit fighting the truth, are no longer wasting resources. Second, almost all of those who joined Lance on the podium have taken the consequences of their doping conduct long ago (for more info, see this post) and, as such, are no longer wasting resources.

Given these two facts, it's amazing to me that Lance continues to claim he was essentially the only clean rider in the pro peloton! In making this claim, he has fought and attacked people and organizations and essentially tainted pro cycling in ways that are bound to damage the sport for a long time.

While the fighters against truth are, in my view, the most pitiful people around, those who are fighting for the truth are the real heroes in any battle. People like Betsy and Frankie Andreu have remained strong for decades as Lance has attempted to intimidate and persecute them for telling their side of the story. I'm sure they will be happy to finally have the truth revealed to all the world. Also, it now appears that others are finally coming forward including more of Lance's closest associates including his closest friend George Hincapie along with Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde. They are at a point where they can either be heroes or pitiful souls depending on whether they stand strong for the truth or they fight it. It appears that they are at least admitting the truth and no longer fighting it.

I especially appreciate the difficult job of those like Travis Tygart, USADA CEO, who is being persecuted and hassled by Lance's high-priced media campaign against USADA as USADA tries to fulfill its duty to clean up the sport.

While Lance still has a few who, it appears, will always regard him as a hero, these fighters for truth are the real heroes in this generation of cycling. They are those who have fought bloody battles for the truth so that the sport can hope for a clean future as the next generation comes forward. Travis Tygart of USADA put it this way in today's VeloNation article:
“When USADA has information about the existence of a sophisticated, far-reaching doping conspiracy, it is our duty under the established rules to conduct a thorough, fair investigation to uncover the truth. 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.”
We need more people fighting for the truth to stand strong and for cycling to be cleansed of those who have corrupted it for many years. I'm encouraged that these lifetime bans are a small step in that effort. Wouldn't it be great if others came forward and admitted they made mistakes. We all know it was widespread so quit fighting the truth!

Unfortunately, one sad fact remains: if cycling is to be cleansed from this doping epidemic, it won't be quick and easy. The dopers, cheaters, doctors, trainers and managers, are to be found all throughout the ranks of pro cycling and its institutions. While this case by USADA reaches some prominent players, it is likely only the tip of the iceberg.

In any case, every individual who comes clean or takes responsibility for his part in this plague is a hero in my book even if he made serious mistakes in the past. This includes Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton. My hat is off to them for giving up their lies for the truth and for getting this ball rolling!

Let's hope more will soon follow this attempt to break from the peloton...


  1. I whole heartedly agree with all the above

  2. As lawyers, I would be curios on what your take of this would be: http://t.co/nNbpLmT9

    1. Justin, unfortunately, neither of us are lawyers. However, the link is very intriguing to us. I'd love to hear from some legal experts to determine its merit. Better yet, it would be great if the Judge copied and pasted the argument!

  3. Mark, why haven't any of the labortories producing the banned substances been targeted outside of BALCO a few years ago? Is it because all the currently banned sporting drugs have legitimate health benefits in other aspects of life, and are only manipulated by sports doctors and trainers?

    Seems like targeting the source would have far more reaching success than targeting the doctors and riders. I know easier said than done.

    1. Mark, I'm not sure but I think Novitzky was going after the sources of the doping agents. He definitely found links to the doctors and trainers but I haven't heard about him linking anything to labs like Balco in this case. Remember the HemAssist allegations that Sports Illustrated wrote about? That had some connections to a drug company. In the end, with the Department of Justice dropping the case, we may never know who all the players were. All we will likely know about are those with close ties to cycling and are disciplined by USADA...

    2. Here is a link to our HemAssist post: http://fraudbytes.blogspot.com/2011/01/lance-armstrong-investigation-what-si.html

  4. Please do not forget Emma O'Reilly as a stalwart truth-teller. http://bicycling.com/blogs/theselection/2011/04/27/emma-o’reilly-responds-to-strickland’s-“endgame”/