The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has unanimously recommended filing formal doping charges against US cycling champ Lance Armstrong, the agency said in a statement on Friday.
Armstrong, who has won seven Tour De France cycling titles, insists that he is innocent. The next step in the process is an arbitration hearing. Armstrong has said he will challenge the findings.
“USADA can confirm that the independent three person Anti-Doping Review Board [ADRB] has conducted a full evaluation and has made a unanimous recommendation to move forward with the adjudication process in accordance with the rules,” agency chief executive Travis Tygart said in a statement.
The agency made some details of its case known in a letter to Armstrong, which was posted online by the Washington Post.
In the letter dated June 12, the agency said that it has Armstrong’s blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that are “fully consistent” with doping. The agency also has at least 10 former teammates and colleagues of Armstrong that will testify that he used performance-enhancing drugs during races from 1999 to 2005, according to the letter.
“These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity,” Armstrong said in a statement earlier this month, when news of the agency’s intentions first surfaced.
“USADA’s malice, its methods, its star-chamber practices and its decision to punish first and adjudicate later are all at odds with our ideals of fairness and fair play,” he said.
Accusations of doping have dogged Armstrong since he ascended to the top of the cycling world after overcoming cancer. In February, the US Department of Justice dropped an investigation centered on whether Armstrong and his teammates cheated the sponsor of their bike racing team with a secret doping program.
That decision meant he would not face criminal charges from the two-year-long probe.