U.S.A. Cycling Sanctions 5 Riders

Colorado Springs, CO

USA Cycling issued a statement today that it is accepting the six-month suspensions effective Sept. 1, 2012 of five U.S. riders as a

George Hincapie, one of the five riders being suspended for admitted performance enhancing drugs

result of their testimony in the Lance Armstrong investigation.

The agency will enforce these sanctions against Tom Danielson, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie, and is currently reviewing the impact of the sanctions on historical results based on information it received from  the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

“I am glad to see the release of the Reasoned Decision by USADA and the official announcement of the sanctions accepted by the riders who participated in the investigation,” said USA Cycling President and CEO Steve Johnson.

“More importantly, I would like to personally acknowledge the extraordinary courage of these riders who placed their careers on the line in order to come forward with their experiences of past doping practices.”

I am greatly encouraged that the culture of professional cycling has changed and the future of our sport has never been brighter,” he continued.

Johnson’s words are likely to have a hollow ring, however. Most if not all of the athletes claim they stopped any kind of doping or performance enhancement more than 6 years ago, leaving some to scratch their heads and wonder, “why now?”

And several are already well on their way to retirement, or to losing their coveted team status. Last week Levi Leipheimer was suspended from his team Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team pending a full inquiry into the USADA report.

The team said the 38-year-old veteran was “placed on non-active status” while the USADA report and Leipheimer’s statements are reviewed.

In a statement Leipheimer said: “Today, I accept responsibility and USADA’s sanctions for participating in the dirty past of cycling. I’ve been racing clean for more than 5 years in a changed and much cleaner sport. I hope that my admission will help to make these changes permanent.”

George Hincapie announced his retirement from competitive cycling in July after the completion of the Tour de France, likely because of the upcoming allegations, and statements that would be made public.

Levi Leipheimer at his own Gran Fondo, Sept 29 2012

But the allegations and disclosures have not had the intended effect on any of the cyclists, at least for the time being. Armstrong is still considered one of the hottest commodities in attracting interest, funding and participation in triathlon events, so much so that some organizers have dropped their USAT certification in order to include him in their races.

And although Levi Leipheimer’s Gran Fondo was held before the allegations against him were made public, news of his involvement in the USADA testimony was well known during the Tour de France this past July. Those well published revelations did not stop 7,500 cyclists from participating in the Leipheimer Gran Fondo on Sept. 29 of this year.

Tom Danielson, another rider who was named in the USADA’s report on Lance Armstrong and who currently rides for Garmin, made no mention of his testimony and suspension on his website.  Danielson’s use of performance enhancing drugs was previously mentioned publicly by Jonathan Vaughters in an interview in September.

Though the USADA says they have performed 989 tests on cycling athletes, both in-competition and out-of-competition, the International Cycling Union (UCI) conducted many more–13,745 medical control tests.

In none of those tests did Lance Armstrong come up positive for banned substances, which begs the question, why the big focus on cycling?

For one, other professional sports with a lot more money on the line rarely test their athletes when compared to cycling.

The National Football League started testing its players in the late 1980’s. But so far, only 6 random tests have been issued during that period, with players receiving only one test per year.

Armstrong has been subjected to over 500 tests, about half of them random at any time, any place in the world.