Lance Armstrong’s lingering USADA saga prompts odd response from former teammates, USA Cycling

With the 99th Tour de France now in its second week, crashes and the evolving overall race competition dominate the news as riders pedal into mountains for the first time.

The lingering saga that is Lance Armstrong versus USADA and the connection to four former teammates competing in the Tour de France has subsided — for now.

But the issue isn’t going away soon.

Did Christian Vande Velde, George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie and Levi Leipheimer admit that they doped in their careers and say that Lance Armstrong did, too, in exchange for plea-bargained, six-month suspensions?

Or is the story leaked a few days ago to newspapers in Europe fiction?

That’s the claim of Jonathan Vaughters, the general manager of the Garmin-Sharp team who’s also listed among those who testified.

One of story’s complementary components is the role or lack of role in the controversy of USA Cycling, the sport’s governing body.

Each of the four cyclists in the fiasco expressed interest in competing in the Summer Olympics later this month in London, England.

Hincapie, 39, a five-time Olympian, is retiring in August. Leipheimer won the 2008 Olympic time trial bronze medal. During the Tour of California, Zabriske said he was focused on winning the event’s individual time trial because he wanted to prove he belonged on the team. Vande Velde said he’d welcome a spot on the team, which would have been his third Olympics.

But in mid-June, all four riders said they had requested via USA Cycling to have their names removed from Olympic team consideration. This year, because no American cyclist met automatic qualifying standards for time trial or road team selection, the choices were subjective and made via a USA Cycling committee.

When asked, USA Cycling issued a statement that it didn’t know why the four riders had made the request. The governing body also said it would have no further comment on the matter.

The surprising turn of events are odorous.

Why did the riders ask to have their names removed? Why did USA Cycling find it necessary to make its “no further comment” comment? Did it think no one would question the odd circumstances?

Why couldn’t any of the cyclists, all largely accommodating with the media throughout their careers, say something along the lines of “a private matter,” instead not commenting?

The actions of USA Cycling are particularly disturbing. The organization offers plenty of news of its expanding membership and corporate sponsorship deals. But when a difficult scenario arises, it removes itself.

If USA Cycling wanted to avoid the controversy, it could have just announced the five-rider team and said nothing. And now, regardless of what happens next, USA Cycling and the four cyclists involved, all with their career reputations at stake, simply look bad.

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Comments

  1. If the 4 former team mates have confirmed doping and done a plea deal, they need to be removed from the Tour de France. Some years ago the Tour made it clear that anyone tainted brith a doping scandal was not welcome in the event. A confession is more that just tainted. Please take them out so the integrity of the event can be restored.
    The individuals concerned need to answer if a deal (plea bargain) has been done, if they deny a deal and it later proves true this should warrant them unreliable witnesses for USADA. If it has been done, they should really have stood themselves down from the Tour as it appears hey have for the Olympics.

    • James Raia says:

      Do you think USADA should be able to control who rides or doesn’t ride in the Tour de France? Really? A U.S., government-backed agency overseeing a European event? Or even Union Cycliste International? That just doesn’t add up, at least not to me.

  2. Richard McMurry says:

    Really sad. USADA is a joke!

    • whatever says:

      Why are they a joke? Because they are (finally) going after Armstrong? Better late than never–they already got virtually everyone he raced against.

      • I would say that they are a joke if they cut a deal with dopers. Unfortunately their role is to identify cheats through testing, and then apply penalties based on the nature of he offense. unfortunately it is not to use statements that without the threat of a grand jury would never have been made. While I certainly hope that all cheats past, present and future are unearthed we cannot have the end justifying the means.
        Further they should not be able to offer ban from some point in the future, and all results and prize money of those who have confessed need to be returned.
        Good on them for coming clean, sport need a return of morality, but it is meaningless if they don’t offer up the benefits of their wayward choices.
        If this was a relay race and an individual doped, the whole team forfeits, makes me wonder why not here too

  3. The Olympic pullouts seem strange… and while I don’t like “leaked” rumors since they typically only serve one side of an entanglement this could get ugly for LA and crew. Wondering when we will hear the full story.

    However… I will remind you that Roger Clemens is a free man and Barry Bonds was never convicted of steroid use. What does that mean for USADA’s chances?

  4. will murray says:

    Unless the USDA have medical evidence that Armstrong had illegal substances in his system, then he must be cleared. just because his team mates said I saw him take this or that is not
    good enough. granted other riders armstrong competited against got forund out but with stuff in their system during their career.

    • Agreed, but those who have now implicated themselves, if they have, must be sanctioned according to the appropriate penalty for the offense. E.g. David Millar did 2 Yrs for epo confession

  5. ArmstrongFan says:

    @whatever – Lance is THE MOST TESTED athlete ever. That’s why this entire thing is a complete joke.

  6. If this will be a fair trial where hard evidence is the key determiner of the outcome in all of this then I don’t see how lance could be found guilty. People are not suppose to be found guilty on he said she said. I’m disappointed in Levi and hincappie if they took bribes.

  7. Well, look, Travis Tygart is a f’in lawyer, and if you hear him speak, you know he is a prick. He is trying to safeguard his position by frying a big fish. This is Plan B after the federal criminal case was rightfully dissolved. The best thing that can happen out if this is reform of this agency and Tygart facing federal criminal proceedings for the methods he has used to coerce testimony. Lawyer boy may have just screwed himself in the end.. just watch.

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