His story was too good to be true: He overcame cancer to win the Tour de France for a seventh time. But now he has lost everything.
There was a time when Lance Armstrong was the shining star in the world of cycling. He was beyond doubt.
Today things are different. Eleven of his former teammates have gone against him. They and fifteen more people have given extensive testimony uncovering an elaborate doping system.
"The evidence of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team-run scheme is overwhelming," USADA chief executive Travis T. Tygart said in a statement, summarizing more than 1,000-pages of agency findings including bank details, emails, lab tests that "prove the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong" and that have been handed over to the International Cycling Union (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The miraculous comeback of Lance Armstrong, who successfully battled cancer in 1997, although his outlook had been bad and who managed to win the Tour de France an incredible seven times, all that did raise eyebrows in Europe.
He did test positive five times in 1999, but legally they could not be used. Continued belief in Lance Armstrong's story remained intact for many cycling fans - until today.
The findings of Tygart and his team, who also benefited from a government investigation by the special investigator Jeff Novitzky, will have consequences.
The UCI will have no choice but to formally withdraw Armstrong's seven Tour victories.
The still-active professionals who have confessed, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, Tom Danielson and David Zabriskie will be suspended, however in recognition of their statements only for the race-free winter season.
There are sure to be legal consequences now. Tygart suggested a criminal dimension of the case and argued that the athletes had felt pressured to take part in the dangerous doping system.
Doping lectures at training camp
Armstrong's former teammate Floyd Landis described the events leading up to 2006, the year his Tour victory was stripped from him. He said his team manager Johan Bruyneel made it clear to him "what will be expected of me as a team member in connection with the use of performance-enhancing agents." Bruyneel sent him to visit Armstrong in the Swiss resort town of St. Moritz in 2002, where the tour winner was waiting to hand him doping substances, "In front of his wife, Kristin, he gave me a package with 2.5 ml of testosterone patches," he said to the USADA. With such glaring evidence he was caught four years later at the Tour de France.
In addition to Armstrong, eight other teammates were supplied with doping substances by Dr. Michele Ferrari, the most notorious doping doctor in the sports scene. "Dottore Epo," was his nickname. He would lecture during U.S. Postal training camps on the benefits of doping, which is what George Hincapie described in his statement to the USADA. Working with the doping doctor cost him $15,000 each year, he said.
As Lance Armstrong had significantly more money than the others, he paid over a million dollars, according to the present bank statements to Ferrari. Which was obviously a worthwhile investment for the seven-time Tour winner, who from 1999 to 2005 appeared to be almost invincible.
UCI showed "zero interest" in the investigation
Armstrong's U.S. Postal was not the only cycling team with a doping system at that time. Competitors were pretty much doing the same: Team Telekom (later T-Mobile) appeared regularly for blood doping in the University Hospital, as a high-level commission found in 2009. The team ONCE (later Liberty Seguros) was found to have used the services of doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes in 2006, who also "managed" the CSC cycling team of Bjarne Riis.
There is suspicion that the UCI may have been involved in the cover up of the wrongdoing. Armstrong's former teammate Tyler Hamilton, reported that Armstrong had boasted about the UCI cealing one of his positive doping tests during the Tour de Suisse in 2001, saying Armstrong made himself proud.
The power of Lance Armstrong in the world of cycling seemed unlimited - and now it has come to an end.