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Lance Armstrong doping allegations headline series of disciplinary actions

By JOHN HENDEL, United Press International   |   Dec. 20, 2012 at 4:30 AM   |   Comments

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The Tour de France crowned one champion in 2012 but lost its most decorated winner in seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, to doping violations.

The Tour de France is the most famous cycling event. It is a grueling race competed over more than two weeks, covering more than 2,000 miles and riders spend more than 80 hours in the saddle.

The physical toll has led riders almost since the race's inception in 1903 to look for an edge. In recent years, doping in cycling has been epidemic; some would say endemic.

Britain's Bradley Wiggins won the 2012 Tour, a year after Australian Cadel Evans took the yellow jersey. Neither has been implicated doping cases. They are very rare.

In the 17 Tour de France races since 1996, 15 of the General Classification champions -- all but Evans and Wiggins -- have been implicated in doping.

Three-time winner Alberto Contador lost his 2010 title in February and the same month 1997 titlist Jan Ullrich was suspended for doping.

However, those revelations paled with the October report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that charged Armstrong, along with his U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling team, of running "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."

The USADA report totaled more than 1,000 pages of documentation that was developed from testimony from more than two dozen people, including 15 cyclists.

"Any time we have overwhelming proof of doping, our mandate is to initiate the case through the process and see it to conclusion as was done in this case," said USADA Chief Executive Officer Travis T. Tygart.

The agency said Armstrong's decision not to defend himself -- the cyclist declared the process was "one-sided and unfair" -- was tacit admission of guilt. Armstrong has consistently argued that he never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

However, the USADA's case was strong enough that international cycling officials stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles (1999-2005). It had been an unprecedented record of success often sullied by rumors of use of illegal performance-enhancing techniques but never detailed to the point of the USADA report until October.

The story of Armstrong's cycling success was enhanced by his personal story of recovering from testicular cancer, which had spread to his lungs and brain in 1996, prior to his series of Tour de France wins.

Armstrong had been closely associated with the Livestrong Foundation that supports people affected by cancer. The negative publicity after the USADA report led Armstrong to publicly withdraw from the foundation.


Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera stands in the dugout during the 10th inning of game 4 of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants at Comerica Park on October 28, 2012 in Detroit. The Giants won 4-3 in 10 innings, sweeping the Tigers 4-0 to win the World Series. UPI/Molly Riley
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Baseball's anti-PED program claimed a major name in August when San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games after a positive test for high levels of testosterone.

Cabrera was hitting .346 -- among the National League leaders -- at the time of his suspension. That figure was more than 60 points higher than his career average. Cabrera's average would have given him the 2012 NL batting title but he asked that he not be considered because of the suspension. He also refused the chance to return to the Giants' lineup for the playoffs, even though the suspension had been served.


Baseball legend Roger Clemens (L) and his defense team arrive for his perjury trial at the U.S. District Court House in Washington, D.C. on May 16, 2012. Clemens is accused of lying to Congress about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs during his baseball career. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
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The so-called steroid era of baseball returned to the forefront late in 2012 when the players eligible to be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2013 were announced.

The group included Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, all of whom had been linked to PED use. For Bonds (all-time leader with 762 home runs) and Clemens (354 wins as a pitcher) the allegations came late in careers that could be considered Hall of Fame-worthy before the time of suspected drug use. Sosa's trend in career statistics doesn't hold up as well.

Clemens in June was cleared of perjury charges brought because he was alleged to have lied to Congress in testimony about PED use.


Soslan Tigiev of Uzbekistan, top, and Kiril Stoychev of Bulgaria compete in a Repechage Round in the Men's 74kg Freestyle Wrestling at the London 2012 Summer Olympics on August 10, 2012 in London. UPI/Ron Sachs
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Olympics athletes from 2000 through 2012 faced drug-related action, including loss of gold medals. The International Olympic Committee keeps athletes' samples on hand for eight years to check as testing methods improve.

Immediately after the 2012 Games, the gold medal won by Belarus shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk was withdrawn after she tested positive for metenolone, an anabolic agent.

A few weeks later Uzbek wrestler Soslan Tigiev was asked to surrender his bronze medal, won in the 74kg class.

Even before the Games, international track officials announced nine elite athletes had been caught doping.

U.S. runner Crystal Cox had the gold medal she won as a member of the 1,600-meter relay team in the 2004 Olympics stripped after she admitted to doping activities from 2001 to 2004. In the same July 21 announcement, the IOC said the gold medal won by the U.S. men in the 1,600-meter relay in 2000 would be rescinded because of Antonio Pettigrew's involvement in the BALCO doping scandal. That is the same investigation that implicated Bonds.

In December, Ukrainian shot put competitor Yuriy Bilonog, who won the event in the 2004 Games, was determined to have used an anabolic steroid and was stripped of his gold medal.

At the same time the IOC asked for the return of the silver medal won by Ivan Tsikhan of Belarus in the hammer throw; and the bronze medals awarded to Svetlana Krielyova of Russia in the shot out and Iryna Yatchenko of Belarus in the discus. All the medals, like Bilonog's, were won in the Athens Games.

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