“The USADA Five”

July 6, 2012

Dutch newspaper “de Telegraaf” published a spectacular story, claiming to have identified at least five witnesses for the USADA in the Lance case (aside from the already obvious Floyd, Tyler and Frankie).

Of course none of these five (Hincapie, Leipheimer, Zabriskie, Vandevelde and Vaughters) are confirmed by USADA or themselves, but it can’t be too big a shock. If the charge is that Lance, Bruyneel et al set up a doping program and forced their teammates to participate, you would expect supporting witness statements to come from those teammates, not from the local butcher or a Miss World contestant.

I suspect the story is not 100% accurate, in particular the claim that those who admitted to doping have been given a 6 month sentence to be served in the off-season. If that were to be true, it would be a travesty. I can imagine cases where people receive a reduced sentence in exchange for their cooperation, I can even imagine situations where people receive full immunity. But I cannot imagine that an anti-doping agency would pretend to sentence an athlete, yet do it in a way that it doesn’t affect him. That would be so cynical and an insult to the public’s intelligence.

Additionally, I would find it hard to believe that USADA would give Leipheimer (for whom this would be his second doping violation) the same penalty as the others for whom it would be their first offense. So all in all, I find that part of the story hard to believe.

Anyway, as those involved deny they got suspensions but don’t deny they gave testimony, maybe that tells us something. Nothing “beyond reasonable doubt”, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to conclude that if the whole story were false, they would deny everything. Now that they deny only a detail, it’s likely that detail is in fact incorrect and the rest is not. Frankly, the “miraculously delayed suspensions” sound a bit Fabianesque.

But of course, all of this is speculation.

To be continued Monday, you can subscribe to this blog if you don’t want to miss it.

20 Responses to ““The USADA Five””

  1. racepace Says:

    I don’t doubt that they have had to give witness statements in this case, but surely they can’t talk about it because the case is still going on? Is that why they have only comment on the suspensions??

    I agree that surely they could not treat all the same and that they would give the suspensions in the off season, that would be a farce!

    I do wonder if this is all to do with the big media machine that is Lance Armstrong slurring characters in public before the case is decided apon, Johan writes for De Telegraph? or am I just cynical nowadays because I don’t trust anyone anymore?

    I sure am disappointed that it has all surfaced again, I want to be able to believe in teams like Garmin and Sky 100%

  2. beev Says:

    i don’t see it as a spectacular story, just an educated guess timed with the biggest bike race in the world. the fact that some parts of the story have been flatly denied, notably by JV, just goes to show it is most likely speculative rather than factually based – doesn’t mean they didn’t get some parts correct of course, but the telling part of this story to suggest it was concocted by a journalist is the fact it’s focus was on naming active participants (in the sport), as opposed to other witnesses that most likely were called aswell by USADA – ones that don’t offer the same paper inches though….

  3. Skater Says:

    Let’s not ignore that there are reasons to believe the whole leak to the various newspapers is from the Armstrong/Bruyneel camp. In part, the newspapers themselves indicating in that vague directly. And, coincidentally or not, Bruyneel is a columnist for De Telegraaf.
    The whole deal is fishy.

    But, are there fesh, hard denials by riders that they would testify to expose anything about Lance? Easy to deny slightly incorrect information, and still go arm in arm with Lance on Twitter, sponsor pamflets and what have you.

    A real travesty is also that Bruyneel is not suspended to be involved as a DS, although he did step back from being personally available at the TdF. While Lance doing smalltime triathlons, IS banned. The DS’s need to be taken care of as well in not better than riders.

    • I fully agree, I started a blog about this topic but not ready yet.

    • paul Says:

      Agreed that a very interesting part of this story is the source of the leak. The leak seems timed to punish the riders currently participating in the tour. And with USADA claiming that bullying will not be tolerated, I think we can conclude which side made the leak.

      • Jeff Kliewer Says:

        Doesn’t Bruyneel write a column for the telegraph? That would almost confirm the leak came from the Bruyneel/Armstrong camp.

        • beev Says:

          or is it just to make it look like bruyneel?

          the conspiracy they are charged would require a mastery of criminality over more than a decade. would such people make such a clumsy leak?

        • I don’t adhere to that logic. Yes, Bruyneel writes for the Telegraaf, but the journalist Kerckhoffs is nobody’s lapdog.

  4. Jonathan Martel Says:

    For the ban, I can figure that they negociate with the USADA prior to testify. They can have done the deal without reveilling their implication nor their names. So the USADA had to offer the end-season ban deal to be able to prouve their points and ban Armstrong.

    • That still is ridiculous to me. Then riders should be given no ban, my problem is with pretending to give a ban when it’s a meaningless one. That’s why I don’t think it’s true.

  5. beev Says:

    Surely the bigger question about justice being done here is why it would appear that this USADA led case has gone further than a Federal backed one in the US….

    • Probably two reasons:
      1) Standard of proof is different.
      2) Humans at work. One guy decided to shut down the federal investigation, another guy decided there was enough there for the USADA. Put two different guys in place, and the federal government might have pressed charges and USADA hadn’t.

  6. Evan Shaw Says:

    The New York Times has verified this story at least the main aspect that these riders will testify against Armstrong. I find it horrid if true that Armstrong is hiring PI’s to trail and dig up dirt on all his former so called comrades. He has already falsely accused one of the USADA members of sexual misconduct. This strikes me as similar to Landis and attorney calling up Lemond and threatening him. The federal case had dramatic and abundant evidence against Armstrong members of that investigative team stated, it was pulled by one mad with political ties. At any rate USDA is pursuing a different charge, not the Federal charges.

  7. Bill Says:

    Another thing to remember here is that it’s possible that none of these 5 ever doped. Giving eye-witness testimony does not qualify someone as a doper. Fact of the matter is, we don’t really know any of the facts.

    But crucifying these guys (if they really are witnesses) in the court of public opinion is exactly what the Armstrong regime has gained by releasing this.

  8. Willem Says:

    1. I have direct knowledge of at least one case where USADA offered a meaningless six month off-season suspension to a cyclist who was by all accounts clean, but missed a post-race test following a serious accident. A USADA spokesperson confirmed to me personally that they felt it was impossible to ignore the rules about a missed test, but agreed that the missed test was an innocent mistake by a rider who had a totally clean record and not in any way intentional. Thus they offered a punishment that adhered to the rules but had no real consequences. (Said rider contested the missed test offense and won, so he did not serve this suspension.)

    2. USADA has, more than once, reduced the ban of a cyclist who cooperated in bringing down a distributer of doping products.

    3. There is a long precedent for police and prosecutors offering light or reduced sentences or complete immunity to criminals who give information that is helpful in bringing down major criminal players. USADA wants to bring down people it sees as actively pushing, trafficking, and covering up doping in the sport. It wants these people more than the witnesses in this case.

    4. The witnesses in this case have nothing to gain by testifying, and would be within their rights to refuse to cooperate under fifth amendment grounds (in the US you can never be compelled, in any criminal or civil matter, to make any statement that would incriminate yourself while under oath or to government authorities of any kind). But their non-cooperation would kill the case. They are, by all accounts, clean now. So the only way to induce their cooperation is to strike a deal like this that allows them to testify freely without worrying about serious consequences to themselves. If USADA really wants to pursue the Armstrong case, they essentially have no other choice but to do this.

    I think many people would agree that it’s good for cycling clean house and eliminate major players (Bruyneel) who are still playing dirty. If the cost is that a few formerly dirty racers tell the truth about their past without paying a high price, then to many that might seem like a deal worth making. I think there’s a very good chance that the whole story is true.

    • As I mentioned, I am not against reduced sentences, especially if it is used to identify people further up the chain (or a tennis player). I object to the meaningless sentence especially when they have full immunity at their disposal.

  9. Evan Shaw Says:

    Is it possible that the USADA had to do the light ban in prefer to secure them BOTH admitting to having doped as well as being subjected to horrid treatment by the whole Armstrong ambit of smear and destroy?

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