Two doctors and a trainer who worked with seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and his cycling teams were banned for life for encouraging doping by athletes, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said.
The penalties against Luis Garcia del Moral and Michele Ferrari, the team doctors, and Jose "Pepe" Marti, the trainer, were announced by the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based agency in an e-mailed news release.
Usada said del Moral, Ferrari and Marti were part of a plan to use banned performance enhancing drugs and doping methods on cycling teams led by Armstrong, who also is accused by the agency of using banned drugs and plotting the use of such substances by his teammates.
Armstrong, 40, has denied ever using drugs or aiding in their use. Now a triathlete, he's seeking to block Usada from stripping him of his cycling titles and imposing a lifetime ban from the sport, according to an amended complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Austin, Texas.
Mark Fabiani, an attorney for Armstrong, declined in an e- mail to comment immediately on Usada's latest action.
Del Moral said by telephone yesterday from the sports clinic where he works in Valencia, Spain, that he was unaware of the ban and that he shouldn't be judged in a foreign country.
"I'm not American, and I don't have a license in America," he said. "Should my case be judged in America? Absolutely not."
Del Moral sent a letter to Usada through his attorney saying he was not going to be a party to any procedure, and under the charges that means his ban automatically goes into effect, said Travis Tygart, Usada's chief executive officer.
"He was employed and paid for by a U.S. taxpayer-funded team, the U.S Postal Service's pro cycling team," Tygart said in a telephone interview. "The rules around the world clearly require us to handle this case."
In an interview in 2010, Del Moral denied overseeing doping on the U.S. Postal team, and said claims by Floyd Landis that it was commonplace were "ridiculous."
Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union, or UCI, didn't immediately return a phone message seeking comment on the Usada action.
After a Usada review board recommended going forward with charges on June 28, those involved had until two days ago to contest the sanctions. Those not banned yesterday were granted a five-day extension to complete their responses or request an arbitration hearing, USADA said in its statement. Tygart declined to say whether Armstrong or Johan Bruyneel, the former U.S. Postal Service team manager who also was charged, had submitted a response.
Armstrong, who retired from cycling in February 2011, has endorsement agreements with Nike Inc. (NKE), Trek Bicycle Corp. and Oakley Inc.
He won the Tour de France, cycling's premier event, each year from 1999 to 2005 after surviving testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs. The Lance Armstrong Foundation, which he founded in 1997 to help cancer survivors, has raised $500 million, the charity's Chief Executive Officer Doug Ulman has said.
On Feb. 4, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles ended a criminal drug probe involving Armstrong and his professional bicycle racing team without filing charges. That investigation focused on whether the team may have defrauded sponsors by breaking the rules, rather than actual drug use.