USADA: Armstrong part of cycling’s ‘most successful doping program.’
Lance Armstrong competes in a mountain bike race in Aspen on Aug. 19, 2012.
(CNN) – Cyclist Lance Armstrong was involved in “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,” the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Wednesday in preparing to release more than 1,000 pages of evidence in the case.
The evidence involving the U.S. Postal Service-sponsored cycling team includes “direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong,” the agency said in statement.
Armstrong, who won an unprecedented seven Tour de France titles, announced in August that he would no longer fight doping charges that the USADA brought against him earlier in the year. The famed cyclist’s decision prompted the USADA to ban the 40-year-old athlete from competition and strip him of his wins dating to 1998, though there were questions of whether the organization had the authority to take such action.
“The USPS Team doping conspiracy was professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices,” the agency said.
The scope of evidence against the team, including testimony from 11 team members who came forward to testify about their own involvement, is “overwhelming,” according to the agency.
The organization is not a governmental agency but is designated by Congress as the country’s official anti-doping organization for Olympic sports.
Armstrong has consistently denied doping accusations. Neither he nor his manager, Mark Higgins, immediately returned telephone calls Wednesday seeking comment.
Between 1999 and 2005, Armstrong won seven consecutive Tour de France titles, despite persistent accusations that he had used performance-enhancing drugs.
The USADA filed doping charges against Armstrong in June. Armstrong retired from professional cycling in February 2011, though he continued to compete in triathlonand marathon events. He has already made stops at a triathlon and marathon in Colorado this year.
In February, the U.S. Justice Department closed a criminal investigation into illegal drug use by Armstrong without filing charges. The Anti-Doping Agency filed its own case, which does not carry criminal penalties, in June.
One of Armstrong’s former teammates, George Hincapie, released a statement Wednesday acknowledging that he had used banned substances and saying he had been approached by federal investigators two years ago to discuss his knowledge of the doping activities by the team.
He did not mention Armstrong by name.
“I would have been much more comfortable talking only about myself, but understood that I was obligated to tell the truth about everything I knew. So that is what I did,” Hincapie said.
“Cycling has made remarkable gains over the past several years and can serve as a good example for other sports,” he said. Thankfully, the use of performance enhancing drugs is no longer embedded in the culture of our sport, and younger riders are not faced with the same choice we had.”