The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency [USADA] says the cycling team led by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was involved in a sophisticated doping program.
USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said the American cyclists' use of performance-enhancing drugs was "the most professionalized and successful doping program the sport has ever seen."
USADA has stripped Armstrong of his Tour de France titles, and the agency released a report
Wednesday with more than 1,000 pages of evidence and testimony from 26 people, including Armstrong's former team-mates and other cyclists.
Tygart said there was a "code of silence" in the U.S. cycling program that kept athletes from reporting cases of doping.
Armstrong maintained his innocence throughout the course of the lengthy investigation, but he has said he is tired of fighting and no longer will respond to doping allegations. His attorney, Timothy Herman, predicted before the report was released that its findings would be a "one-sided hatchet job," based largely on "coerced testimony" and "threat-induced stories."
Armstrong won the Tour de France, cycling's most challenging competition, seven years straight - from 1999 through 2005 - with all his victories coming after he had been diagnosed with and successfully treated for cancer. It was an advanced case of testicular cancer that had metastasized to his brain and lungs. Although doctors once said his survival chances were poor, he regained his health after surgery and extensive chemotherapy.
During his years of cycling success, Armstrong developed an anti-cancer foundation now known as Livestrong.com
, devoted to healthy living as well as the fight against cancer.
The Tour de France, a three-week team race covering more than 2,000 kilometers through France and neighboring countries, combines extremely rigorous climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees with sprints across gentler terrain. Armstrong's teams won several times and always were top contenders; his victories were in the individual competition.
Although USADA said it was stripping Armstrong of his Tour de France titles in August, when the agency also banned him from the sport for life, no official action against the American has yet been taken by the organization that sponsors the Tour. The USADA report released Wednesday is being submitted to the International Cycling Union.