Lance Armstrong Faces Grim Endgame as His Doctors Are Banned for Doping

PHOTO: American Lance Armstrong with team RadioShack rides during stage 16 of the Tour de France in Pau, France, July 20, 2010.

Lance Armstrong's endgame is upon us.

While the seven-time Tour de France champion maintains that he never used any performance enhancing drugs, official sanctions have now been handed down against three men directly linked to Armstrong's cycling achievements.

According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral, a cycling team doctor; Dr. Michele Ferrari, a cycling team consulting doctor; and Jose "Pepe" Martí Martí, a cycling team trainer, have all received lifetime bans as the result of anti-doping rule violations that occurred while they were working with Armstrong's former cycling teams.

"Permanently banning these individuals from sport is a powerful statement that protects the current and next generation of athletes from their influence, and preserves the integrity of future competition," USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart said in a statement.

For those who wonder what doctors have to do with a cycling team, this gets to the very essence of one of the biggest questions in sport right now: If Lance Armstrong doped, how did he do it? After all, he passed scores of drug tests every year he was racing.

According to former Armstrong teammates, doctors and trainers like the three men USADA essentially convicted, are frequently used to run what some in the sport have referred to as a team's "medical program."

Cycling and the Tour de France have been ravaged by doping scandals for many years. But USADA claims that Armstrong's US Postal Service Team in particular ran a doping program more sophisticated than the competition.

One official involved in the matter put it this way: "This is among the worst and deepest doping conspiracies the world has ever seen."

Ferrari, the Italian doctor who had been ensnared in doping controversy in Europe before Armstrong raised eyebrows by working with him, often independent of his team, is a case in point.

In support of its lifetime ban, this is what USADA says about Ferrari:

"Dr. Ferrari developed a distinctive mixture of testosterone and olive oil to be administered under the tongue to assist in recovery during races and training. This mixture was known among team members as the 'oil.' Dr. Ferrari also advised riders on the use of the banned oxygen enhancer erythropoietin ('EPO') with detailed instructions regarding clearance times, how the EPO drug test worked and how to avoid detection of the drug. Dr. Ferrari specifically advised riders to inject EPO intravenously in order to avoid the drug showing up in a urine drug test."

If it sounds more like a science class than a bike race, welcome to the Tour de France. The details match much of what disgraced Tour winner and former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis told ABC News in 2010.

But at this point, there's still no smoking gun to prove Armstrong did anything wrong.

Even though his doctors and trainers have been found guilty and even though USADA says a minimum of 10 former teammates will testify that Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs and encouraged others to do so, a huge portion of the country wants to know -- where's the hard proof?

Armstrong maintains the USADA case is a "kangaroo court" and that he has no chance of a fair judgment. He tried to get a federal judge to intervene, but that move failed spectacularly.

Federal court Judge Sam Sparks rejected the suit Monday in a strongly worded order that said Armstrong appeared to be playing to the media more than to the legal system.

His legal team filed another claim in federal court today to try to stop the process.

But where does it end?

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