USA Cycling officials told VeloNews Wednesday morning that American professionals Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and Levi Leipheimer — four active riders that testified in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation of Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service team — had not been suspended. [Update: Signed “Acceptance of Sanction” forms for Vande Velde, Zabriskie, Danielson and Leipheimer are included in Appendix AA of USADA’s Appendices and Supporting Materials, published Wednesday afternoon.]
In a press release issued Wednesday morning, USADA CEO Travis Tygart listed the four men as among 11 former Postal Service riders to have testified, adding, “The riders who participated in the USPS Team doping conspiracy and truthfully assisted have been courageous in making the choice to stop perpetuating the sporting fraud, and they have suffered greatly. In addition to the public revelations, the active riders have been suspended and disqualified appropriately in line with the rules.”
USA Cycling chief operating officer Sean Petty said that he had not received a formal indication from USADA that the four riders should face sanction.
“In every previous doping case, USA Cycling has been informed by USADA and asked to suspend those riders. We are the body that would suspend riders, as they are licensees. They would tell us the terms of the suspension, as well as in the cases of riders with international licenses, they would also tell the UCI,” Petty told VeloNews. All I can tell you is that we also read USADA’s statement that the riders have been suspended, and at this point we have not been informed about any riders involved in this other than Lance Armstrong.”
Several sources have told VeloNews that the riders began serving six-month suspensions in September that will expire in March, information contradicted Wednesday by Petty and USA Cycling technical director Shawn Farrell.
Six months is the minimum suspension an active rider can serve for an anti-doping violation; WADA Code allows for a maximum 18-month reduction for providing information on doping practices.
Under the WADA code, Article 10.5.3 declares that an athlete providing “substantial assistance” to anti-doping authorities is eligible for a reduced sanction:
Substantial Assistance in Discovering or Establishing Anti-Doping Rule Violations An Anti-Doping Organization with results management responsibility for an anti-doping rule violation may, prior to a final appellate decision under Article 13 or the expiration of the time to appeal, suspend a part of the period of Ineligibility imposed in an individual case where the Athlete or other Person has provided Substantial Assistance to an Anti-Doping Organization, criminal authority or professional disciplinary body which results in the Anti-Doping Organization discovering or establishing an anti-doping rule violation by another Person or which results in a criminal or disciplinary body discovering or establishing a criminal offense or the breach of professional rules by another Person. After a final appellate decision under Article 13 or the expiration of time to appeal, an Anti-Doping Organization may only suspend a part of the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility with the approval of WADA and the applicable International Federation. The extent to which the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility may be suspended shall be based on the seriousness of the anti-doping rule violation committed by the Athlete or other Person and the significance of the Substantial Assistance provided by the Athlete or other Person to the effort to eliminate doping in sport. No more than three-quarters of the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility may be suspended. If the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility is a lifetime, the non-suspended period under this section must be no less than eight (8) years. If the Anti-Doping Organization suspends any part of the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility under this Article, the Anti-Doping Organization shall promptly provide a written justification for its decision to each Anti-Doping Organization having a right to appeal the decision. If the Anti-Doping Organization subsequently reinstates any part of the suspended period of Ineligibility because the Athlete or other Person has failed to provide the Substantial Assistance which was anticipated, the Athlete or other Person may appeal the reinstatement pursuant to Article 13.2.
VeloNews understands that at least three of the athletes in question provided testimony without being informed of a doping offense, qualifying them for the reduced sanction under Article 10.5.4:
Admission of an Anti-Doping Rule Violation in the Absence of Other Evidence Where an Athlete or other Person voluntarily admits the commission of an anti-doping rule violation before having received notice of a Sample collection which could establish an anti-doping rule violation (or, in the case of an anti-doping rule violation other than Article 2.1, before receiving first notice of the admitted violation pursuant to Article 7) and that admission is the only reliable evidence of the violation at the time of admission, then the period of Ineligibility may be reduced, but not below one-half of the period of Ineligibility otherwise applicable.
However, Shawn Farrell told VeloNews that he had no information that there had been any changes to the eligibility of any rider.
“There have been no changes that anyone has told me about,” Farrell wrote in an email. “The normal paper flow is that in addition to a press release such as [USADA’s], we would receive a specific release for each rider giving us the infraction and the nature of the penalty applied and the timeline. I do not believe we have received this, or if we have, it has not made it to me yet.”
USADA officials did not immediately return requests for comment on the riders’ eligibility status.
Garmin-Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters, who was also listed as one of 11 former USPS riders to have testified, said the team would issue a statement shortly.