New Doping Charges Filed Against Lance Armstrong

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has filed new charges against cyclist Lance Armstrong. Melissa Block talks with the Washington Post's Amy Shipley about the allegations and Armstrong's past doping fights.

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It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block. There's news today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, or USADA, has brought formal doping charges against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. USADA is the body that fights performance-enhancing drug use in Olympic sports.

Lance Armstrong has issued a statement strongly denying any wrongdoing, but the charges could cost him his Tour de France titles. Amy Shipley of the Washington Post broke this story today and she joins me now. Amy, you got a copy of the charging letter - 15-page charging from USADA. What evidence do they say they have against Lance Armstrong in bringing these charges?

AMY SHIPLEY: Well, they're relying, obviously, on witness testimony. They say they have 10 eyewitnesses to many of the allegations in the letter and USADA has brought forward something new in this charging letter. It claims it has samples from 2009 and 2010 that show evidence of the use of EPO, which is an endurance building drug. That's different than saying they have positive tests. But they are saying that they have evidence that he did use this drug.

BLOCK: What would that evidence be if it weren't a positive result?

SHIPLEY: Well, they have means at looking at markers in blood and finding evidence that something's going on there, maybe without finding the drug itself.

BLOCK: Well, it's interesting because Lance Armstrong has always said he's been tested hundreds and hundreds of times and has never tested positive. He'd issued the statement that we mentioned, calling this all a vendetta. You spoke with his lawyer, too. What did he say?

SHIPLEY: They do think it's a vendetta. And of course, the agency, it's not commenting on this. At least, they haven't talked to us, but they claim that they are out to clean up cycling. And by cleaning up the past they can do that.

BLOCK: There was a criminal investigation into Lance Armstrong and these charges of blood-doping brought by the attorney in Los Angeles. No charges were filed in that case. But now we have these charges coming from USADA. How do you square those two thing?

SHIPLEY: Well, I think USADA was definitely not going to take any action against Lance until that criminal case was resolved. And it's a lot more difficult, USADA doesn't have the power of prosecution. It can't bring criminal charges against Lance. It doesn't have subpoena power. So it's much harder for them to get evidence. On the other hand, their burden of proof is not quite the same. It's very difficult, actually, to win doping cases when you're charged. Historically, very, very few athletes have overcome doping charges, so this is truly a threat to Lance's legacy.

BLOCK: What happens now?

SHIPLEY: Well, he'll fight the charges, which means this will go to arbitration. We'll have to wait and see how that plays out.

BLOCK: And the immediate repercussions for Lance Armstrong? We mentioned that he could ultimately get stripped of his Tour de France titles.

SHIPLEY: If he loses the arbitration he will lose his titles. Immediately, he's banned from competition. He's not competing in cycling. He retired in 2011. However, he's been competing just for fun in triathlons. But he's banned from those Iron Man competitions.

BLOCK: OK. Amy Shipley, thank you very much.

SHIPLEY: No problem. Thank you.

BLOCK: Amy Shipley of the Washington Post talking about formal charges that were brought against Lance Armstrong today by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

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