Last month Lance Armstrong seemingly put his long battle against doping allegations to rest, telling Men's Journal, "I'm done fighting. I've moved on." After all, in February the U.S. Attorney dropped an inquiry into whether Armstrong had participated in a doping operation on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team. "If there are other things that arise," Armstrong said, "I'm not contesting anything. Case closed."
Even as he said that, though, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was building its own case against the seven-time Tour de France champion. On June 12, USADA sent Armstrong a letter laying out charges against him. Citing eyewitness accounts and drug-testing data, it alleges that Armstrong—from before his first Tour win through his last—used drugs, assisted others in doping and engaged in trafficking of drugs, including EPO and testosterone. USADA cannot bring criminal charges, only apply sports sanctions, but it has a lower burden of proof than criminal court. If Armstrong does not contest anything, he may well be stripped of his Tour titles, and the trafficking and administration charges could result in a lifetime ban from Olympic sports, including triathlon, in which Armstrong currently competes.
When the letter became public last week, Armstrong issued a statement saying, "These are the very same charges ... that the Justice Department chose not to pursue." But there is a difference. The USADA letter cites blood-testing data compiled in 2009 and '10, which the agency says show fluctuations indicative of doping. Monitoring biological oscillations began recently in cycling and appears to be discouraging doping. In last year's Tour, the power outputs of cyclists on the hill stages plummeted compared to previous years, when Armstrong dominated the sport.
ALESSANDRO TROVATI/AP (ARMSTRONG)
SEVEN UP? The charges brought by USADA carry no legal sanctions for Armstrong but could cost him his Tour de France titles.