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Tour champ charged

By Jim Vertuno
Associated Press / June 30, 2012
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AUSTIN, Texas — The US Anti-Doping Agency has filed formal charges against Lance Armstrong, accusing the seven-time Tour de France winner of using performance-enhancing drugs throughout the best years of his career.

The agency notified Armstrong, former team manager Johan Bruyneel, and several other Armstrong team associates of the charges in a letter on Thursday.

The charges came after a USADA review panel examined evidence in the case, which now goes to an arbitration panel to decide. If found guilty, Armstrong could be stripped of the Tour de France titles he won from 1999-2005. This year’s Tour begins Saturday.

Armstrong maintains his innocence. His attorney, Robert Luskin, called the charges ‘‘wrong and baseless.’’

Also charged are team doctors Pedro Celaya Lezama and Luis Garcia del Moral; team trainer Pepe Marti; and consulting doctor Michele Ferrari. Because they are so closely linked, USADA rolled all of the charges into a single case.

Armstrong and the others ‘‘[have] been part of a doping conspiracy involving team officials, employees, doctors, and elite cyclists,’’ said the USADA letter.

The letter accuses Armstrong of using, possessing, and trafficking banned substances, including the blood-booster EPO, blood transfusions, and steroids. The charges date to 1998, after he had been declared cancer free but before his first Tour de France victory.

Bruyneel, who is currently the manager of the Radioshack-Nissan-Trek team, recently announced he would skip this year’s Tour because of the USADA investigation.

USADA says it has at least 10 former Armstrong teammates and associates who will testify against the cyclist, and blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that are ‘‘fully consistent’’ with blood doping.

Armstrong and the others charged have until July 9 to inform USADA if they plan to challenge the evidence in arbitration.

The 40-year-old Armstrong retired from cycling last year, and in February a two-year federal investigation centering on alleged drug use by Armstrong and his teams closed with no charges being filed.

The formal charges came after a unanimous recommendation from a three-person USADA panel.

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