• USADA charges seven-time Tour winner over alleged violations
• Armstrong issues a statement attacking the agency's actionLance Armstrong denies the allegations and says he has taken 500 drug tests and never failed one. Photograph: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Lance Armstrong could be stripped of his record seven Tour de France victories after the US Anti-Doping Agency charged him and five associates over alleged doping violations. Armstrong was banned from competition with immediate effect, including from the triathlons in which he has been competing since his second retirement from professional cycling early last year.
Armstrong has spent almost a dozen years fighting off allegations of doping, and as the 2012 Tour comes into view he is facing potentially his most significant battle yet. This is the first time he has been formally charged by a national anti-doping body. The USADA confirmed in a statement that it had brought charges against Armstrong and five other individuals – none of them riders – who had worked for the US Postal Service team, for which Armstrong raced between 1998 and his initial retirement from cycling in 2005.
The USADA statement said: "In response to numerous inquiries regarding the public statements made by Mr Lance Armstrong, we can confirm that written notice of allegations of anti-doping rule violations was sent yesterday to him and to five additional individuals all formerly associated with the United States Postal Service (USPS) professional cycling team. These individuals include three team doctors and two team officials. This formal notice letter is the first step in the multi-step legal process for alleged sport anti-doping rule violations."
The USADA charges are not criminal but the agency can ban athletes and revoke titles.
Armstrong had earlier issued a statement on his website which stated his innocence of doping, and attacked the agency's action. "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."
Armstrong's first Tour victory dates back to 1999, and his last to 2005. Although the World Anti-Doping Agency's statute of limitations for amending results is eight years, USADA ruled this year that this can be overturned in specific cases. That applied in the case of the runner Eddie Hellebuyck, who confessed to doping dating back to 2001 and, in February this year, was stripped of his results from that date following a ruling by the American Arbitration Association. Armstrong has been the subject of several inquiries relating to alleged doping, most recently an US Federal government inquiry headed by the Food and Drug Agency investigator Jeff Novitsky.
That inquiry, centred on allegations of fraud, was abandoned in February after nearly two years, with no charges brought, after which the USADA stated that it would continue its own inquiry.
Armstrong's statement highlighted the link between the two inquiries, reading: "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."
Armstrong has maintained he achieved his seven victories in the Tour de France without the use of banned drugs, and all the inquiries into alleged doping over the years by him and his team have ended up being abandoned, beginning with a French prosecutor's probe in 2000 and concluding with the FDA inquiry this year. His statement closed with: "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."http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/jun/14/lance-armstrong-alleged-doping-violations
A lot of people seemed pretty pissed off when this news broke last night.
Can't see them bringing it up again without fresh if not concrete evidence against him.