Lance Armstrong has said he is “unaffected” by claims that he was at the centre of the biggest doping scandal in sporting history, saying that he was instead concentrating on his charitable work.
“What am I doing tonight? Hanging with my family, unaffected, and thinking about this,” he posted on his Twitter account on Thursday, a day after a damning report was issued by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that detailed testimony from 26 witnesses, including 11 former teammates.
USADA released about 200 pages filled with vivid details of accusations, portraying Armstrong as a man who spared no expense – financially, emotionally or physically – to win the seven Tour de France titles that the anti-doping agency has ordered to be taken away.
Al Jazeera’s Farrah Esmail said that the report detailed how Armstrong allegedly passed drug tests by using natural substances such as testosterone and oxygen.
“Some of his teammates are saying that Lance Armstrong, along with some doctors, developed an elaborate doping programme that they were effectively bullied into taking part in, or they ran the risk of being dropped from the team,” she said.
Armstrong did fail one drug test, but according to the report, the results were covered up. Despite the lack of drug test evidence, however, the other evidence could be enough to prove the doping allegations.
“If enough eyewitnesses see you taking drugs, that’s the same as actually failing the drug test,” Esmail reported.
Armstrong still has some support among riders in elite cycling, including Samuel Sanchez, the 2008 Olympic road race champion.
“Until the contrary is proved, he remains innocent. Lance has overcome many controls and even until today he has never been found positive in any of them,” the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider said in Spanish in a television interview with The Associated Press news agency before Thursday’s third stage of the Tour of Beijing.
“So about all the accusations that have been poured against him, we have to see what is the goal of all of them, whether it is an economic motive or they want to harm his image,” he said.
“We still need to wait to see what’s the final decision taken by the UCI, and see what it rules. The UCI has said all the time that it works on today’s cycling and not in the cycling of the past.”
The head of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Doug Ulman, opted to laud Armstrong’s work as a cancer fighter. That was a sentiment which BMC rider Stephen Cummings, a former Olympic track cycling silver medalist, agreed with.
He said Armstrong deserved some kind of recognition for winning the Tour de France seven times after recovering from testicular cancer.
“Oh look, it is easy to say and point your finger on all the bad things but you could look at the good things he has done as well,” Cummings said in Beijing.
“So he has done a lot good things, like his cancer charity.”
Sky Procycling’s Alex Dowsett, a 23-year-old British rider in his second year on the tour, said Armstrong “is still a legend of the sport” and he preferred to focus on cycling in the new era.
“All I know is that we all are racing clean,” he said. “So it was a different sport back then.”
Orica GreenEDGE rider Leigh Howard thought the sport needed to get past the Armstrong case.
“It’s been going on for a long time now,” he said. “I think it is good when the case is finally finished, which I think is already finished anyway.
“I think everyone should move on with it.”
The UCI confirmed receiving the report from USADA and said it would respond to it soon, “not to delay matters any longer than necessary”.
It has 21 days to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
UCI chief Pat McQuaid was en route to Beijing and did not respond to calls from AP news agency.
He was due to arrive Friday morning in the Chinese capital, where he can expect to face questions regarding the extensive evidence in the USADA report.
The agency accused Armstrong of depending on performance-enhancing drugs to fuel his victories and expected his teammates to do the same.
Among the 11 former teammates who testified against Armstrong are George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis.
USADA Chief Executive Travis Tygart said the cyclists were part of “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
Armstrong did not fight the USADA charges, but insists he never cheated.
The report also went to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which also has the right to appeal, but so far has supported USADA’s position in the Armstrong case.
“We would like to commend USADA for having the courage and the resolve to keep focused in working on this difficult case for the sake of clean athletes and the integrity of sport,” WADA President John Fahey said.
Fahey did not respond to messages seeking further comment.