BOULDER, Colo (VN) _ A shipment of banned drugs that led to the two-year suspension of Colorado amateur racer Chuck Coyle was sent to his home address, sources have told VeloNews.
Coyle told VeloNews he was unaware of the purchase and has never used banned drugs. He blames the order on a former teammate he will not name, who he said borrowed his computer and email account. Coyle said he only admitted that he bought and used the dope because he was out of options.
An anti-doping official said he was reluctant to comment on specifics of the case and “pile on” the 38-year-old amateur in the media, preferring to let the case’s resolution speak for itself. But when contacted by VeloNews, Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, pointed to Coyle’s signed confession and noted that Coyle could have chosen to argue his case or accept a penalty without an admission of guilt.
“(Coyle) signed a document, intelligently and knowingly, that states that he used and purchased EPO,” Tygart said. “It doesn’t get any more clear and voluntary than that.”
Coyle told VeloNews that a former Successful Living teammate or teammates borrowed his laptop computer, accessed his email account and ordered the drugs without his knowledge.
But two sources, each requesting anonymity because of their familiarity with confidential details of the case, told VeloNews that Coyle’s home address was the shipping address provided to Eposino.com, the site run by former racer Joe Papp, who was acting as a middleman for a Chinese manufacturer.
Although Coyle declined to respond to questions for this article, it should be noted that he runs a mail order business out of his house, so there are likely many packages coming and going everyday.
Last week, Coyle told VeloNews that he believes he knows who ordered the products, but was “explicitly told” that to name them would expose him to a defamation lawsuit.
Papp, awaiting sentencing on January 21 for a violation of federal narcotic laws, would not comment on Coyle’s case. Federal prosecutors said Papp netted $80,000 from sales to 187 customers from September 2006 to September 2007.
Coyle told VeloNews that before accepting the sanction, he consulted with attorney Howard Jacobs, and decided he could not afford a $20,000 legal defense, particularly in light of damning evidence. Jacobs, who has represented cyclists such Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis and Kayle Leogrande, would not disclose details of his conversations with Coyle.
Coyle told VeloNews last week that USADA had threatened him with a four-year suspension or lifetime ban, and pressured him into accepting a two-year suspension.
Tygart said athletes have access to pro bono legal representation via a program run by U.S. Olympic Committee Ombudsman John Ruger. Among the options is the Valparaiso University School of Law, which Tygart said “represents athletes all the time.”
There are other alternatives to signing a confession. An athlete can decline to sign USADA’s paperwork, effectively accepting the suspension without admitting guilt. Or, if an athlete challenges the accusation, USADA would be obligated to present its case to a three-person panel, even if the athlete chose not to attend the hearing. There is no charge (other than the athlete’s legal fees if he chooses to hire a lawyer) for the hearing.
After discussing his case last week, hours after USADA announced the sanction, Coyle told VeloNews he had nothing more to add. “I think everything is going to come out in due time,” he said. “But for now, I’m not comfortable putting my family through any more press.”
Editor’s note: Discovering the redwood forest singletrack in Santa Cruz, California, was the beginning of a lifelong love affair for Neal Rogers and riding bicycles. He moved to Boulder, Colorado, in 2001 to take a three-month editorial internship at VeloNews. He still hasn’t left. In addition to traveling the world covering races, Neal can be found riding his bike in the mountains (during spring and summer), racing cyclocross (fall), and skiing or snowboarding (winter). Year-round he can be found cooking, or attending a concert.