ROUEN, France — Lance Armstrong accused U.S Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart on Thursday of waging a “vendetta” against him following reports five former teammates have received reduced suspensions after admitting to doping in return for testifying against the seven-time Tour de France champion.
“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,” Armstrong wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “This isn’t about Tygart wanting to clean up cycling – rather it’s just a plain ol’ selective prosecution that reeks of vendetta.”
The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that Armstrong’s former teammates have been given six-month bans that begin in late September. Citing “well-informed sources,” the paper identified them as Jonathan Vaughters, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde.
Vaughters, currently a team director at Garmin-Sharp’s cycling team, said at the start of Thursday’s fifth stage that the report is “completely untrue.” Garmin-Sharp’s parent company, Slipstream, later supported Vaughters’ denial in a statement.
“We can confirm that our Tour team is entirely focused on the Tour and media reports of suspensions are untrue,” the company said.
USADA wouldn’t confirm the De Telegraaf report but released a statement warning that those named could be subject to “unnecessary scrutiny, threats and intimidation.”
Vande Velde and Zabriskie are part of the Garmin team. Leipheimer, who rides for Omega Pharma-QuickStep, said: “I’m just here to ride the Tour de France, and so far I’m still in the hunt for the general classification. I can’t say anything.”
Hincapie, who rides for BMC, said he just wants to help Cadel Evans keep his Tour title. Hincapie said he hasn’t spoken to Armstrong recently.
“I’m sad he is going through this,” he said. “He’s done so many things for the sport. His accomplishments are incredible.”
Armstrong has always strenuously denied doping, and a two-year federal investigation ended in February with no criminal charges against the Texan.
USADA, however, has filed formal charges against Armstrong, accusing him of using performance-enhancing drugs throughout the best years of his career.