Now it gets really serious. Austin cycling legend Lance Armstrong faces formal charges that he cheated in winning his seven straight Tour de France titles.
The charges come from the U.S. Anti-doping Agency (USADA). If proven, these charges could result in Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles won between 1999 and 2005, and they immediately mean Armstrong is banned from any competition, including the triathlons he has been competing in lately.
The Washington Post first reported the charges Wednesday saying it obtained a copy of a letter sent to Armstrong by the USADA on June 12.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is a quasi-governmental body charged to "preserve the integrity of competition, inspire true sport and protect the rights of athletes in the Olympic & Paralympic movement in the United States," according to its website.
According to the Post, the USADA letter contains previously unreported accusations including a damning statement that alleges blood samples provided by Armstrong in 2009 were “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”
Armstrong responded to the charges with another strong denial online:
"I have been notified that USADA, an organization largely funded by taxpayer dollars but governed only by self-written rules, intends to again dredge up discredited allegations dating back more than 16 years to prevent me from competing as a triathlete and try and strip me of the seven Tour de France victories I earned. These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation. These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity. Although USADA alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy extended over more than 16 years, I am the only athlete it has chosen to charge. USADA’s malice, its methods, its star-chamber practices, and its decision to punish first and adjudicate later all are at odds with our ideals of fairness and fair play.
"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. 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."
Doping rumors have hounded Armstrong for most of his career, but no hard evidence has ever surfaced against him, just allegations and rumors. Most recently the U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles declared it would not be filing any charges against Armstrong after a two year investigation.
According to the Post's story, these charges emanate from many of the same accusations made earlier. The Post writes, "the letter alleges that 'multiple riders with firsthand knowledge' will testify that Armstrong used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and masking agents, and that he distributed and administered drugs to other cyclists from 1998 to 2005. The letter alleges that numerous witnesses will testify that Armstrong also used human growth hormone before 1996."
None of those allegations are new, in fact, Armstrong's former teammates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton both accused Armstrong of doping in the past. All of those accusations have previously been dismissed.
It's all part of life as Lance Armstrong now. The great achievement of winning seven straight Tour de France titles, something no other person has come close to achieving, is simply too impressive to believe for many of Armstrong's competitors, teammates and apparently even the agency charged with "inspiring true sport and protecting the rights of athletes."