World Anti-Doping Agency Director-General David Howman said Lance Armstrong pursued what appears to be a systematic doping program for a decade “probably with the knowledge” of people who were charged with detecting drug cheats.
Howman told New Zealand’s LiveSport Radio that Armstrong’s repeated claim he has never tested positive for a banned substance could no longer be regarded as proof of his innocence.
“What seems to have happened in this particular scenario is that it went on for many years under the noses of those who were supposed to be detecting it and at times probably with their knowledge,” Howman told the New Zealand program from WADA’s headquarters in Montreal.
Howman said Armstrong had finally been caught because fellow cyclists had broken a code of omerta (silence) and confessed their parts in a “conspiracy to defraud the sport.”
He did not specifically identify the agencies or individuals he suspected may have turned a blind eye to doping by Armstrong or his teams. But he referred to “suggestions” contained in the report of the United States Anti-Doping Agency that irregularities in some Armstrong tests might not have been investigated as rigorously as they should have been.
Armstrong tried to treat Thursday like any other day.
He was at the office of his cancer-fighting foundation, “talking about next week’s events and plans for 2013,” he said on Twitter.
• Five of Armstrong’s teammates have accepted six-month doping suspensions, reduced because they provided evidence that helped the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency make the case to strip Armstrong of his Tour titles.
George Hincapie, Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie all would have received at least two-year sanctions had they not helped USADA with its case.