USADA's Investigation Rumored to Hand Down 6-Month Suspensions to Witnesses

Michael Hatamoto@MhatamotoContributor IIIJuly 5, 2012

The media assemble outside the Garmin-Sharp team bus (Image: Sirotti)
The media assemble outside the Garmin-Sharp team bus (Image: Sirotti)

The fallout from a looming USADA investigation into seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong continues, with several 2012 Tour de France riders being repeatedly pestered about the ongoing investigation.

Several of Armstrong’s former teammates are rumored to have received shortened six-month doping suspensions—to begin later this season—in exchange for testifying against Armstrong (via CyclingNews). 

According to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, those riders include Garmin-Sharp’s Dave Zabriskie and Christina Vande Velde, Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s Levi Leipheimer and BMC rider George Hincapie.

Garmin-Sharp CEO Jonathan Vaughters also would be given a temporary ban. Vaughters and his team are on the forefront of anti-doping in cycling, and welcome open dialogue with anti-doping agencies:

But the basic premise of the statement: we demand honesty from everyone in slipstream if contacted by anti-doping authorities.

— Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) July 5, 2012

Here is what Team Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider Leipheimer had to say:

“I really don’t have anything to say. All I can say is that I am here at the Tour de France, I am 100 percent focused on this race. So far I am still in the hunt for the classification. That is all I have to say.”

Hincapie also said his focus is on racing the Tour, and is temporarily ignoring everything else (via AFP):

“I’m just disappointed this is being brought up once again.  I’ve always tried to do the right thing for the sport. Right now I’m here to do my job and I’m going to try and focus on that.  BMC’s got nothing to do with this, Cadel is obviously here to try and win the Tour and I’m going to try and help him do that.”

The USADA hopes to punish Armstrong for participating in a systematic doping program while riding for U.

USADA CEO Travis Tygart noted witness bullying “cannot be tolerated,” (via VeloNews):

“USADA’s investigation into doping in the sport of cycling continues. No individual cases have been finalized, and any attempt to guess at whom potential witnesses might be only leads to inaccurate information being reported and subjects those named to unnecessary scrutiny, threats and intimidation,” Tygart said through an e-mail Thursday morning.”

Meanwhile, Armstrong spoke out against the USADA’s "selective prosecution," speaking out angrily to the Associated Press:

“So let me get this straight… come in and tell them exactly what they wanted to hear and you get complete immunity AND anonymity? I never got that offer. This isn’t about Tygart wanting to clean up cycling—rather it’s just plain ol’ selective prosecution that reeks of vendetta.”

Sadly, it looks like a publicly perceived vendetta against Armstrong will negatively impact some of the rider’s former teammates—as they try to remain focused on competing in the 2012 Tour.

If the U.S. federal government dropped its case against Armstrong, I’m not entirely sure what the USADA would be able to gain from this investigation. Armstrong could be stripped of his Tour de France victories—but more shockingly, witnesses in the case still in the professional peloton would also suffer. 

This seems less like an investigation for justice, and rather like a witch hunt to punish Armstrong to any extent possible.