Lance Armstrong and his team ran the most sophisticated doping programme in sport according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) which released its report on the case against the US Postal cycling team yesterday.
USADA said it was sending the report, which was more than 1000 pages long and contained the sworn testimony of 26 people, including 15 riders, to the International Cycling Union (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), before making it available on its website.
"The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen," USADA said in a statement from chief executive Travis Tygart.
"The evidence also includes direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong and confirm the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS Team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding."
Armstrong has denied cheating and never failed a doping test but the seven-times Tour de France winner was banned for life by USADA in August after announcing he would not fight the charges.
Armstrong's lawyers have repeatedly attacked the credibility of USADA's case, describing the proceedings as a "kangaroo court" and a "witch hunt" on the eve of yesterday's release.
"USADA has continued its efforts to coerce and manufacture evidence from other riders through threats and sweetheart deals and generated self-serving media coverage through leaks and piecemeal release of tired, disproven allegations," Armstrong's attorney, Timothy J. Herman, wrote in a letter to USADA. "This reasoned decision will be a farce . . . while USADA can put lipstick on a pig, it still remains a pig."
USADA said the case against Armstrong and his team included eyewitness, documentary, first-hand, scientific, direct and circumstantial evidence and testimony from 11 former team-mates. Several former team-mates had already spoken out publicly against Armstrong but USADA named all 11 for the first time yesterday.
"The evidence demonstrates that the 'Code of Silence' of performance enhancing drug use in the sport of cycling has been shattered, but there is more to do," USADA said. "From day one, we always hoped this investigation would bring to a close this troubling chapter in cycling's history and we hope the sport will use this tragedy to prevent it from ever happening again."
USADA identified the 11 team- mates as: Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.
Hincapie, one of Armstrong's closest allies, and the Canadian rider Barry, both admitted yesterday to using performance-enhancing drugs.
Hincapie, the 39-year-old American, who rode alongside Armstrong in each of his seven Tour de France wins, said in a statement: "Because of my love for the sport, the contributions I feel I have made to it, and the amount the sport of cycling has given to me over the years, it is extremely difficult today to acknowledge that during a part of my career I used banned substances," he said.
"Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them."
Hincapie said he stopped using drugs six years ago and decided to come clean about his own past in a bid to restore credibility to the sport.
"Thankfully, the use of performance enhancing drugs is no longer embedded in the culture of our sport, and younger riders are not faced with the same choice we had."
Barry said that "soon after [joining the team in 2002] I realised reality was not what I had dreamed and that doping had become an epidemic problem in professional cycling".
He said he was put under pressure to use performance-enhancing drugs.
"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," said Barry. "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."
Barry left the team in 2006, quit using drugs and became an anti-doping crusader, although until yesterday's report was released, he had never admitted to doping.
The UCI had yet to respond to the USADA report at the time of going to press.