Lance Armstrong barred from Ironman France amid new USADA doping charges

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has filed charges against Lance Armstrong for using banned performance-enhancing drugs. AP Photo/Alex Wong

(CBS/AP) PARIS - Lance Armstrong has been barred from competing in the Ironman France triathlon after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed new charges that he doped as a Tour de France cyclist.

Ironman France spokeswoman Delphine Vivet said Armstrong was told Wednesday that he is out of the June 24 race in Nice, southern France, because of the new USADA proceedings against him. She said he is barred from the race under World Triathlon Corporation rules.

The seven-time Tour champion was in southern France preparing for the triathlon. On Tuesday, he tweeted that he had been on the Col D'Eze, a climb near Nice, earlier that day.

Armstrong thought he had finally put persistent doping allegations to rest months ago when federal investigators in February closed a two-year investigation without bringing criminal charges. But the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency continued its own probe and has filed new doping charges that could strip the seven-time Tour de France winner of his victories in cycling's premier race.

Armstrong dismissed the latest allegations as "baseless" and "motivated by spite."

"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," Armstrong said in a statement. "Any fair consideration of these allegations has and will continue to vindicate me."

Armstrong formally charged for doping, Tour de France titles at risk

The move by USADA immediately bans him from competing in triathlons, which he turned to after he retired from cycling last year.

Armstrong has been dogged by doping allegations since his first Tour victory in 1999, but had hoped his fight to be viewed as a clean champion was finally won after federal prosecutors closed their probe. Armstrong has said the investigation took a heavy emotional toll and he was relieved when it ended. (Watch "60 Minutes" report from May 2011 on Armstrong doping allegations.)

But USADA officials insisted they would continue to pursue their investigation into Armstrong and his former teams and doctors, and notified him of the charges in a 15-page letter on Tuesday. Unlike federal prosecutors, USADA isn't burdened by proving a crime occurred, just that there was use of performance-enhancing drugs.

In its letter, USADA said its investigation included evidence dating to 1996. It also included the new charge that Armstrong blood samples taken in 2009 and 2010 are "fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions." Armstrong came out of his first retirement to race in the Tour de France those two years.

Even though he last won the Tour seven years ago, the 40-year-old Armstrong remains a popular — if polarizing — figure, partly because of his charity work for cancer patients.

Since he first retired after the 2005 Tour de France, Armstrong has often said he was tired of fighting doping claims only to vigorously battle to clear his name. He spent millions assembling a legal team during the criminal investigation.

In the months since the criminal probe ended, Armstrong has said he would not worry about a USADA investigation and that he's done "wasting" time answering doping questions.

Anti-doping officials, however, kept pressing their case and finally laid out the charges in the letter.

The USADA letter accuses Armstrong of using and promoting the use of the blood booster EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, human growth hormone and anti-inflammatory steroids. The letter doesn't cite specific examples, but says the charges are based on evidence gathered in an investigation of Armstrong's teams, including interviews with witnesses who aren't named.

USADA's letter said the agency was also bringing doping charges against Johan Bruyneel, manager of Armstrong's winning teams; team doctors Pedro Celaya and Luis Garcia del Moral; team trainer Pepe Marti, and consulting doctor Michele Ferrari.

Cycling's governing body, the International Cycling Union, which collected the 2009 and 2010 samples cited in the USADA letter, said it was not involved in the anti-doping group's investigation.

According to USADA's letter, more than 10 cyclists as well as team employees will testify they either saw Armstrong dope or heard him tell them he used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone from 1996 to 2005. Armstrong won the Tour de France every year from 1999-2005.

During their investigation, federal prosecutors subpoenaed Armstrong supporters and ex-teammates to testify in Los Angeles. One of the most serious accusations came during a "60 Minutes" interview when former teammate Tyler Hamilton said he saw Armstrong use EPO during the 1999 Tour de France and in preparation for the 2000 and 2001 tours.

The "60 Minutes" story also reported for the first time that long-time Armstrong lieutenant George Hincapie told U.S. government investigators that he and Armstrong had "supplied each other with the blood booster EPO and discussed having used testosterone, another banned substance, during their preparation for races."

"60 Minutes" reporting in May 2011 revealed that no fewer than three Armstrong teammates had told government investigators that they had personally witnessed Armstrong doping. Sources with knowledge of the allegations say that the USADA case will also rely on suspicious Armstrong test results from races in 2009 and 2010.

Early in the criminal investigation, Armstrong attorney's accused USADA of offering cyclists a "sweetheart deal" if they would testify or provide evidence against Armstrong.

In a letter to USADA last week, Armstrong attorney Robert Luskin noted that USADA Chief Executive Officer Travis Tygart participated in witness interviews with federal investigator Jeff Novitzky during the criminal probe.

"It is a vendetta, which has nothing to do with learning the truth and everything to do with settling a score and garnering publicity at Lance's expense," Luskin wrote.

In a statement, Tygart said, "USADA only initiates matters supported by the evidence. We do not choose whether or not we do our job based on outside pressures, intimidation or for any reason other than the evidence."

Armstrong has until June 22 to file a written response to the charges. The case could ultimately go before an arbitration panel to consider evidence. The USADA letter said in that case a hearing should be expected by November.

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