(NaturalNews) Former professional road racing cyclist and Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is the target of a new investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which alleges Armstrong engaged in a "long running doping conspiracy" between 1998 and 2007. Armstrong has already been barred from competing in upcoming Ironman triathlons as a result of the accusations, and if found to be guilty of the charges, he could also lose all seven of his Tour de France titles.
The Washington Post (WP) reports that a 15-page letter issued by USADA accuses Armstrong of taking performance-boosting drugs such as erythropoietin (EPO), getting blood transfusions, and supplementing with human growth hormone (HGH) during his glory years -- and the group says it has convincing proof to back its claims. The letter also accuses Armstrong of distributing and administering performance-enhancing drugs to other cyclists between 1998 and 2005.
USADA says analysis results from blood samples obtained from Armstrong in both 2009 and 2010 are "fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions." Several former teammates of Armstrong, including Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, have also come out publicly with claims that Armstrong participated in illicit doping activities over the years.
The letter accuses several others besides Armstrong, including five of his former cycling team associates, of participating in the doping conspiracy as well. Italian physician Michele Ferrari is named in the accusation, as is Armstrong's former team manager Johan Bruyneel. The letter also claims that more than ten other cyclists were witness to the doping conspiracy, and that they are willing to testify against those accused.
Armstrong defends innocence, claims he has never failed a drug test
Armstrong has publicly denied, of course, that he has ever taken any illegal performance-boosting drugs, and claims every drug test he has ever taken has showed up negative. However, he has refused to meet with USADA officials to discuss the matter, which some believe is highly suspicious. According to USADA, every other cyclist ever accused of such conduct has willingly met with the group.
"I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one," said Armstrong in a recent statement issued by his publicist. "That USADA ignores this fundamental distinction and charges me instead of the admitted dopers says far more about USADA, its lack of fairness and this vendetta than it does about my guilt or innocence. Any fair consideration of these allegations has and will continue to vindicate me."
Two-year federal investigation of Armstrong's behavior leads to dead end
The accusations made by USADA come just months after a federal investigation into Armstrong's alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs came to an abrupt end. According to WP, a grand jury investigation initiated by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles back in 2010 was suddenly shut down back in February, which surprised many. Consequently, no criminal charges were ever filed against Armstrong (http://www.washingtonpost.com).
But USADA is not content with that case's dismissal, which is why it is now continuing to try to bring to light evidence it says indicts Armstrong of the charges filed against him. Even though USADA does not have the legal authority to press criminal charges, it can at least revoke Armstrong's numerous awards, should he be found guilty, which the group appears intent on doing.
Armstrong's fans in denial that their hero may be a doper
The charges laid against Armstrong by USADA are more serious than most people probably think they are, especially since the organization rarely loses a case. And the reason it rarely loses a case is because it does not initiate one unless it has solid evidence that an athlete has violated the rules, which in this case happens to be a well-respected cancer survivor who is a role model to millions.
"USADA only initiates matters supported by the evidence," wrote the group in a recent press release. "We do not choose whether or not we do our job based on outside pressures, intimidation or for any reason other than the evidence. Our duty on behalf of clean athletes and those that value the integrity of sport is to fairly and thoroughly evaluate all the evidence available and when there is credible evidence of doping, take action under the established rules."
This is a hard pill for Armstrong's millions of global fans to swallow, especially those who have looked up to Armstrong as if he were some type of athlete god. Article comment sections all across the web are already brimming with hatred towards USADA for even levying the accusations in the first place, particularly because these accusations have barred Armstrong from participating in the upcoming Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, as well as from participating in any other World Triathlon Corp.-sanctioned events.
Time will tell whether or not the evidence is strong enough to convict Armstrong of foul play. But even if he is found guilty, Armstrong's strongest and most loyal supporters will likely continue to deny that their idol could have ever done anything wrong, despite the evidence. And this, of course, is a common theme among cults of personality, whose followers view them as models of perfection capable of doing no wrong.