Lance Armstrong was supplier, enforcer and kingpin of a sophisticated doping program that propelled him to seven straight Tour de France titles, his most loyal teammates said in testimony about cycling's drug culture to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Armstrong's spectacular rides through the Alps and sunflower fields of France and the evolution of his U.S. Postal Service team from "Bad News Bears to New York Yankees," as he put it, were "fueled from start to finish by doping," USADA found in its investigation.
Armstrong not only used the red blood cell booster EPO, human growth hormone, testosterone and blood transfusions during training and racing, but threatened teammates with termination if they didn't do the same.
The 202-page USADA v. Lance Armstrong report released Wednesday included details from 26 people, including 11 former teammates. They describe flushing drugs down an RV toilet in fear of a police raid, babysitting refrigerated blood while Armstrong was out of town, hanging blood bags from picture hooks in village hotels, evading testers, injecting EPO, reinfusing in the team bus on the side of a mountain road while the driver pretended to have engine problems, and squirting into their mouths a steroid mixture called "the oil."
Armstrong, who denied doping allegations throughout his career, has called the investigation a "witch hunt" depriving him of constitutional rights and sued USADA to get the case dismissed. He didn't comment Wednesday but has repeatedly said that he has never tested positive for banned performance-enhancing substances in hundreds of tests.
When he declined to challenge USADA's findings in arbitration hearings, he was stripped of his titles and banned from any sanctioned competitions. A triathlon in Maryland dropped its sanctioning last weekend so that Armstrong could compete. Cycling's international federation will now examine USADA's report before it goes to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Armstrong's lawyer Timothy J. Herman of Austin, Texas, said USADA was carrying out a vendetta, rehashing old allegations and coercing testimony from "serial perjurers."
But George "Big George" Hincapie, Armstrong's self-sacrificing chaperone through their 2,000-mile Tours de France, admitted he cheated until 2006, saw Armstrong cheat for years and "felt obligated to tell the truth," he said in an apologetic statement. "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."
Hincapie, who never tested positive during his 19-year career, accepted a penalty that includes forfeiture of drug-aided results.
USADA Chief Executive Travis Tygart credited "courageous riders" such as Frankie Andreu, Dave Zabriskie, Levi Leipheimer and Christian Vande Velde for their decision to "break the Code of Silence -- the omerta"-- and chastised Armstrong for choosing not to come clean and "be part of the solution" for his sport's problems. Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour title for doping, gave the investigation momentum when he confessed, then turned whistle-blower in 2010.
Armstrong, 41, survived life-threatening testicular cancer to become controversial star of the drug-soaked sport and an inspiration to cancer patients with his tenacious rides in the grueling Tour, yellow "Livestrong" bracelets and fund-raising foundation.