U.S. Anti-Doping Agency panel recommends pursuing case against Lance Armstrong

USADA announces that review panel unanimously supports pursuing a case against seven-time Tour champ

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AFP) — The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced on Friday it has filed formal doping charges against Lance Armstrong that, if proven, would strip him of his seven Tour de France titles.

A three-member review panel evaluated evidence gathered by USADA and a reply from Armstrong before unanimously voting to turn the allegations, first disclosed on June 13, into formal charges.

The next step in the process will be a hearing before an arbitration panel, which USADA media relations manager Annie Skinner said could convene before November. Armstrong would be allowed to review the USADA evidence in advance and cross-examine any witnesses against him.

Whichever side loses could appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for a final resolution.

USADA claims it has witnesses who will testify that Armstrong and five former associates — including Italian doctor Michele Ferrari and team manager Johan Bruyneel — engaged in a doping conspiracy from 1998 to 2011.

The seven-time Tour champion has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

Last week, in an 18-page reply to USADA’s allegations, Armstrong asked the review panel to dismiss the charges, saying the anti-doping agency had not offered sufficient proof.

The review panel instead dismissed his position.

“All respondents will have the opportunity to exercise their right to a full public arbitration hearing, should they so choose, where all evidence would be presented, witness testimony would be given under oath, and an independent group of arbitrators would ultimately decide the outcome of the case,” USADA said in a statement.

“USADA will continue to follow the established procedures that are compliant with federal law and were approved by athletes, the U.S. Olympic Committee and all Olympic sports organizations.”

Just a day ago, Armstrong said the credibility of USADA’s case has been undermined by the fact that two key witnesses, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, are self-confessed dope cheats.

And on Wednesday, Armstrong attorney Robert Luskin attacked the anti-doping agency in a letter obtained by The Washington Post, saying USADA “has no regard for its own protocol, fairness or common notions of decency.”

USADA has said previously that at least 10 former Armstrong teammates and associates would testify against him, but vowed to keep the names confidential.

Armstrong called the allegations against him “baseless” and said the case only recycles “discredited” allegations from the past.

“I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one,” Armstrong said in a statement when the allegations were made.

“That USADA ignores this fundamental distinction and charges me instead of the admitted dopers says far more about USADA, its lack of fairness and this vendetta than it does about my guilt or innocence.”