Tour de France 2020

Tygart: Bullying USADA witnesses cannot be tolerated

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief says no Armstrong-related cases have been finalized and that information on witnesses can harm them

SAINT-QUENTIN, France (VN) — U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said on Thursday that any attempts to bully witnesses in the Lance Armstrong doping probe “cannot be tolerated.”

Tygart issued a statement hours after Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that Americans George Hincapie (BMC Racing), Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie, both of Garmin-Sharp, are part of the USADA case against seven-time Tour champion Armstrong this fall.

“USADA’s investigation into doping in the sport of cycling continues. No individual cases have been finalized, and any attempt to guess at whom potential witnesses might be only leads to inaccurate information being reported and subjects those named to unnecessary scrutiny, threats and intimidation,” Tygart said through an e-mail Thursday morning.

Tygard is a tireless crusader for the ideals of fair play at the highest echelons of sport. He told VeloNews recently that he wasn’t doing his job if he let external forces limit USADA investigations.

Tygart directed the anti-doping agency’s efforts in the BALCO investigation that led to more than 20 doping cases and ensnared some of sport’s biggest names, including Marion Jones and Barry Bonds. The UCI asked Tygart and his USADA team to look into Armstrong and company in 2010, but he shelved his investigation while the federal government conducted its own investigation, mainly looking for financial wrongdoings that could lead to fraud charges and jail time. U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. closed that investigation in February without pursuing charges.

“It is important to remember that the truth would often be suppressed without witnesses who at great cost to themselves are willing to tell the truth under oath about what they saw and experienced, and any attempt to circumvent the proper procedures in order to bully or silence people who may or may not be witnesses cannot be tolerated,” he said Thursday.

Garmin-Sharp CEO Jonathan Vaughters was also named as a witness. Curiously, the names leaked are all at the Tour, while in its letter informing Armstrong and five others of its intent to pursue sanctioning, USADA claimed to have at least 10 witnesses on record. The news rippled through the team buses this morning in Rouen, France, before the stage 4 rollout to Saint-Quentin.

Armstrong, his longtime manager Johan Bruyneel and a host of team doctors stand accused of a watershed doping conspiracy that spans titles and teams. Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel have denied the charges.