Eleven of Lance Armstrong's former teammates who helped cycling's greatest champion clinch seven victories at the Tour de France, say they witnessed Armstrong use performance enhancing substances, according to a new report by the US U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
According to the USADA, which banned Armstrong for life from professional competition and stripped him of his record-setting Tour titles, the athlete, his coaches and teammates "ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
Teammates describe years of systematic doping, using banned substances and receiving illicit blood transfusions.
During one tour, just moments before Armstrong was to be randomly tested for doping, a team doctor injected him with a liter of saline to dilute the increased number of blood cells he had in his system, a sign of doping, according to witnesses.
In 1999, witnesses told USADA, Armstrong and three other teammates "used [the banned substance] EPO every third or fourth day" of the tour. That year Armstrong won his sport's premier event for the first time.
Five of the eight riders on that 1999 team have admitted to using banned substances themselves, according to the report.
In a statement released today, the USADA said its investigators had interviewed 26 people with direct knowledge of Armstrong's doping and would release nearly 1,000 pages of evidence bolstering their claim that the cyclist used performance enhancing drugs.
"USADA has found proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Lance Armstrong engaged in serial cheating through the use, administration and trafficking of performance enhancing drugs and methods and that Armstrong participated in running the U.S. Postal Service Team as a doping conspiracy," the report concludes.
In a career that spanned two decades, Armstrong underwent more than 500 tests for banned substances and never failed one, proof, he says, that USADA's findings amount to little more than a "witch hunt."
From 1999-2005, Armstrong cruised to victory at the Tour as the premier rider on the U.S. Postal Service Team. The witnesses who lined up against him read like a Who's Who of American cycling, including Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, champion riders who were earlier found to be doping.
Responding to the press release previewing USADA's report, Armstrong's attorney Tim Herman called it a "one-sided hatchet job - a taxpayer funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat -induced stories."
"Ignoring the 500-600 tests Lance Armstrong passed, ignoring all exculpatory evidence, and trying to justify the millions of dollars USADA has spent pursuing one, single athlete for years, USADA has continued its government funded witch hunt of only Mr. Armstrong, a retired cyclist, in violation of its own rules and due process, in spite of USADA's lack of jurisdiction, in blatant violation of the statute of limitations, and without honoring… national and international rules," Herman said in a statement.
USADA also accuses Armstrong of trying to intimidate witnesses and procuring false affidavits.
According to USADA's accounting, Armstrong paid more than $1 million to Dr. Michele Ferrari, controversial physician linked to several other doping cases.
Many of the teammates who testified against Armstrong never tested positive for doping, but admit now that they used performance enhancing substances.
Armstrong tried to fight the USADA ban in court, but gave up and accepted the sanctions.
International cycling's governing body, the UCI, will soon review USADA findings and decide whether it will implement its own sanctions against Armstrong.