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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