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Lance Armstrong suspended from WTC competition
Posted on: Thursday 14th June 2012
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And off we go. Again.
The return to multisport of seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has been, without question, the biggest story in the sport this season. That he has performed better in the five 70.3 races he has started than many expected, has only added to that. Wins in Honu and Florida, second in Panama, third in St. Croix and seventh in Texas has taken Armstrong to fourth place currently on the 70.3 Pro Rankings.
With Ironman France scheduled for next weekend too, Lance looked to to book his 2012 Kona start too.
But what now? As of today, Armstrong is currently 'suspended' from WTC competition and it looks like his Ironman debut may not happen. At least not now, possibly not ever?
The Washington Post today broke the story of "fresh doping charges from USADA", USADA being the United States Anti-Doping Agency, against Armstrong and five other team managers, doctors or trainers.
A 15-page letter - you can read it in full HERE - has been sent to six individuals, Armstrong, plus long time Team Director Johan Bruyneel, Dr Pedro Celaya, Dr Luis Garcia del Moral, Dr Michelle Ferrari and Mr Pepe Marti.
The letter itself is "to notify you that USADA... is opening a formal action against each of you, based on evidence that, as described below, you engaged in anti-doping rule violations...."
The letter then describes and outlines issues around the following items and where, as applicable, rule violations will be testified against specific to the six named individuals outlined above. (Not every proposed action applies to each individual).
As such, this is notification, not - currently at least - a formal ban or conviction of any kind. The notification of proposed charges is based on evidence gathered from several sources including previous team mates of Armstrong.
As you would expect, Armstrong has responded to this latest news via his website:
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.
Andrew Messick, CEO of World Triathlon Corporation, owners of the Ironman brand has issued this statement:
WTC has been notified that USADA has initiated its Anti-Doping Review Board Process against Lance Armstrong to determine if there is sufficient evidence of doping during his cycling career to bring forward charges of a non-analytical nature. Our rules, as stated in the WTC Professional Athlete Agreement and Waiver, dictate an athlete is ineligible to compete during an open investigation. Armstrong is therefore suspended from competing in WTC-owned and licensed races pending further review.
To say that Armstrong divides opinion is up there with some of the biggest understatements of all time. In a sense, the WTC/Ironman are in an awkward situation. Armstrong has been notified of the opening of a formal action at this point. At the same time, he has - in line with the WTC rules - been suspended from competing in WTC-owned and licensed races pending further review.
This will - and has - already divided opinion, and referring back to the opening line of this article, will of course run and run for many months and possibly years.
If the allegations are proved true, and sanction (eventually...) follows, many will not question this suspension. Equally, Lance is not currently subject to any sanction - should 'innocent until proved guilty' apply until that point?
In the short term it's damned if you do, damned if you don't for Andrew Messick and Co.