Armstrong case fall-out: Stars handed six-month bans

The fall-out of the United States Anti Doping Authority’s report on systematic doping in Lance Armstrong’s former US Postal Service team, with several big names accepting six-month bans as part of a plea-bargain and Levi Leipheimer put on the non-active list while his current team investigates.

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Armstrong case fall-out: Stars handed six-month bans
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Levi Leipheimer is arguably the biggest name to have given evidence

Most of Armstrong’s still active former team-mates – some of whom he counted as close friends – will be suspended until March 1, 2013, and have had results annulled for periods from two to seven years.

The biggest hit individual in terms of lost titles is Leipheimer, who has had all results from 1999-2006 and some of his 2007 wins annulled, including a Tour de France stage. He loses two Grand Tour podiums too, from France and Spain.

Leipheimer's current team, Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, announced he had been placed on "non-active status" pending investigations.

The other major active names are Christian Vande Velde, George Hincapie, David Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and Michael Barry, while retired pair Frankie Andreu and Stephen Swart also gave evidence in exchange for shortened suspensions. There is more on the six active riders below.

The biggest hit current team is Garmin-Sharp, which loses three riders and team manager Jonathan Vaughters for six months. Vaughters is a former pro cyclist who was a manager at USPS at the time of the offences and has since publicly admitted doping during his career. Vaughters has been an outspoken critic of doping in recent years.

Floyd Landis's career was already over when he decided to come clean - he was famously stripped of his 2006 Tour de France win for doping, which he denied until 2010. He is widely credited with blowing the lid on Armstrong's alleged doping, with many of the seven-times champion's supporters joining the man himself in discrediting Landis as a compulsive liar.

Landis claimed he received testosterone from Armstrong in 2002, EPO from him in 2002 and 2003 and saw Armstrong use EPO in 2004. He also said he received blood transfusions with Armstrong at the 2002 and 2003 Tours de France.

Tyler Hamilton had effectively been banned for life in 2009 after a second positive doping test but he gave crucial evidence to USADA. He first tested positive after winning an Olympic gold in 2004, but a botched B-sample meant he kept his medal until August 2012, when he was finally stripped of it. In the interim he failed another test in 2004, sitting out a two-year ban, and was linked to Operacion Puerto before he tested positive a second time in 2009. Only then did he learn his lesson, after an eight-year ban effectively ended his career.

Hamilton said he saw Armstrong take EPO and testosterone during the 1999 Tour and testosterone in 2000. He also said he received blood transfusions with Armstrong during the 2000 Tour, while he says Armstrong gave him EPO in 1999 and 2001.

USPS doctors Michele Ferrari and Garcia del Moral have also been banned for life, while another doctor Pedro Celaya is taking his case to arbitration, as have team director Johan Bruynell and coach Jose 'Pepe' Marti.

THE BIG SIX - active riders banned for six months in exchange for sworn testimony

1. Levi Leipheimer (38, Omega Pharma-QuickStep, USA)

One of the top all-rounders in the sport, Leipheimer has an impressive roll-call of titles, from Grand Tour stage wins to second-tier stage race victories and a few national titles. He got away with a 1996 positive test, successfully claiming it was a result of taking hay-fever medication and thus only giving up prize money and the title for the US National Criterium championship of that year. He made his breakthrough after joining USPS, coming third at the 2000 Vuelta a Espana, a podium he has now lost. He actually left the team before too long, but continued to dope at Rabobank, Gerolsteiner and Team Discovery, admitting as much to USADA.

He loses Dauphine Libere, Deutschland Tour and Route de Sud titles, and countless top-10 placings on Grand Tours. It seems he was more successful clean though, as he won his two Vuelta a Espana stages and one Tour de France stage afterwards, riding for the dubious Astana team. Has also won and retained three Tour of California titles.

Leipheimer tellingly said Armstrong had told him he was the middle man to speak to doping doctors - as recently as 2009. This evidence appears to have been key in the accusation that Armstrong was as much a facilitator as a doper, and has spoken of the 'omerta' between cyclists on the practise of drug taking.

He said: “I came to see cycling for what it was: a sport where some team managers and doctors coordinated and facilitated the use of banned substances and methods by their riders. A sport where the athletes at the highest level - perhaps without exception - used banned substances. A sport where doping was so accepted that riders from different teams - who were competitors on the road - coordinated their doping to keep up with other riders doing the same thing.

"I could have come forward sooner. But would that have accomplished anything - other than to end my career? One rider coming forward and telling his story in the face of cycling's code of silence would not have fixed a problem that was institutional. By taking responsibility for what we have done, my generation will make sure it stays that way."

2. George Hincapie (39, BMC Racing, USA)

The 39-year-old New Yorker was one of only two men to have raced nine Tour de France. He is probably the most famous domestique of all time, having helped Armstrong win his seven Tour de France titles. He has also helped Alberto Contador (2007) and Cadel Evans (2011) win cycling’s biggest race.

Wore the yellow jersey himself in 2006, although that has now been taken away from him, as have three of his four Tour de France stage wins and a US Road Race Championship title. Hincapie admitted to being part of a blood doping programme with Armstrong, and that the two colluded to avoid testers. He said Armstrong was using EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions

He said: "I would have been much more comfortable talking only about myself, but understood that I was obligated to tell the truth about everything I knew. So that is what I did."

3. David Zabriskie (33, Garmin-Sharp, USA)

The likeable Zabriskie has, like Hincapie, worn the yellow jersey but his main strength is time trialling – he was won stages on all three Grand Tours, and has won the US time trial championship seven times. He has now lost two of these US titles, and three Grand Tour stages.

Also, he can no longer claim to have worn that yellow jersey in 2005. He said US Postal Service team director Bruyneel and team doctor Del Moral introduced him to doping.

He said: "I accept full responsibility and was happy to come forward and tell USADA my whole story; I want to do my share to help bring this entire issue to the fore and ensure a safe, healthy, and clean future for cycling."

4. Tom Danielson (34, Garmin-Sharp, USA)

A solid all-rounder with good climbing skills, Danielson was once touted as the “next Lance Armstrong”, but that never quite materialised, although he has won a Tour de France TTT and placed in the top 10 on several Grand Tours.

Luckily for him much of his best work happened post-2006, so he keeps that 2011 stage team win. Had already admitted using blood-boosters earlier in his career.

He said: "After years of doing things the right way, I was presented with a choice that to me, did not feel like a choice at all. In the environment that I was in, it felt like something I had to do in order to continue following my dream."

5. Christian Vande Velde (36, Garmin-Sharp, USA)

Vande Velde is somewhat fortunate in that he joined USPS a year after the others, and left in April 2006 – meaning he keeps his Tour de Luxembourg title from that summer. Indeed, only one major result – the mountains title from the Tour of Benelux – is stripped from the all-rounder’s palmares.

Still, he sits out a six-month ban. He claimed Armstrong told him his seniority on the team depended on his submitting to the doping programme. He also claimed to have seen Armstrong's then-wife give out cortisone pills to riders at a race in 1998.

He said: "One day, I was presented with a choice that to me, at the time, seemed like the only way to continue to follow my dream at the highest level of the sport. I gave in and crossed the line, a decision that I deeply regret."

6. Michael Barry (36, Team Sky, Canada)

Tall domestique Barry, who joined Team Sky in 2010, had already announced he would retire at the end of this season before USADA made their decision. The least-known of the big six, he has had a decent if unspectacular career, whose highlight was a stage win at the 2005 Vuelta and a TTT win in Spain the year before.

They are rubbed out, as are several minor stage and race wins. He does hold on to his 2009 Giro d’Italia TTT win though.

He said: "After being encouraged by the team, pressured to perform and pushed to my physical limits I crossed a line I promised myself and others I would not: I doped. It was a decision I deeply regret. It caused me sleepless nights, took the fun out of cycling and racing, and tainted the success I achieved at the time. This was not how I wanted to live or race."

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