A photographer grabs a picture of Armstrong at the 2004 Tour de France. ©EMPICS

USADA - Lance Armstrong's team groomed and pressured athletes to use dangerous drugs

The United States Anti-Doping Agency says the US Postal Service team ‘ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.’

THE UNITED STATES Anti-Doping Agency are sending its ‘Reasoned Decision’ to the International Cycling Union (UCI) in an effort to get his seven Tour de France titles erased from the record books.

The agency, which imposed a lifetime ban on the American cyclist in August, says 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates testified against him in its investigation of the cyclist, revealing “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”

The documents supporting the agencies decision include more than 1,000 pages of evidence and contain personal testimonies from George Hincapie, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, former colleagues of Armstrong on the U.S Postal Services team.

Armstrong won six of his seven Tour de Franc titles with USPS between 1999 and 2004. His seventh, and final, victory came in 2005 with the Discovery Channel team.

Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the USADA, released a statement on Wednesday that is damning in its indictment of the 41-year-old, who only retired from professional cycling in 2011.

Tygart said, “The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the USPS Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”

He added that the hefty book of evidence that will be submitted to the International Cycling Union, containing testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders, clearly showed the ‘code of silence’ regarding performance enhancing drug use ‘has been shattered’. Tygart added:

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 program organized by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today.”

Armstrong won six Tour de France titles with USPS. (AP Photo/File)

Armstrong’s attorney, in a letter to USADA attorneys, dismissed any evidence provided by Landis and Hamilton, calling them ‘serial perjurers and have told diametrically contradictory stories under oath’.

However the role of Hincapie, vocally supportive of Armstrong for many years, and his role in the investigation could be extremely damaging for his former teammate.

Armstrong did not choose to fight the August sanction, and ban, but did call the case a ‘witch hunt’.

End game

The next step in the process falls to UCI, who can choose to accept the agency’s findings.

The report also will go to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which also has the right to appeal, but so far has supported USADA’s position in the Armstrong case.

Tygart and the USADA insist that Armstrong’s penalties are already in place.

He added that their investigation was focused solely on the truth.

Read the full USADA statement here.

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