Tour de France: Denials all round in Rouen as Lance Armstrong doping case engulfs Garmin team

 

A "no comment" or simply no words at all from a handful of g rim-faced riders and team management, with quote-hungry reporters and TV cameras massing round team buses and cars, and team staff staring blankly across a flimsily fenced-off area at the press pack beyond: this is usually the scene when a Tour de France drugs scandal breaks. And so it was again yesterday morning in Rouen, as the latest round of doping suspicions over the seven-times Tour winner Lance Armstrong surfaced.

The drama mounted when, faced by a sea of reporters at the stage start, the Garmin-Sharp director Jonathan Vaughters denied any of his team's riders would face six-month bans by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as part of its investigation into Armstrong.

Vaughters declared that his team's core values included racing 100 per cent clean, and answering any questions put by anti-doping authorities "openly and honestly".

When asked if he had testified against Armstrong, who never rode for the Garmin team, Vaughters refused to comment.

Vaughters was in the eye of the storm as he had figured in a report in the Dutch daily De Telegraaf, which claimed yesterday that USADA had handed out suspended bans to Vaughters and four other former Armstrong team-mates. The four are riding this year's Tour for the Garmin, BMC and Omega Pharma teams, while Vaughters is now Garmin director.

The four others named by the Dutch paper refused to comment on the case at all, with the two most communicative of the riders – the long-time Armstrong team-mate George Hincapie, and the 2007 Tour and 2008 Vuelta podium finisher Levi Leipheimer – stating the obvious, that they were simply here to race.

"I've always tried to do the right thing for my sport but I've got other things on my mind here," a Hincapie statement read.

"We've not received any information from any authority, we can't comment on newspaper reports," was the terse contribution of Hincapie's BMC team manager Jim Ochowicz – who directed Armstrong – before retiring swiftly back to the team bus.

Tour officials were equally tight-lipped, with the race's general director, Christian Prudhomme, asking a reporter from the French sports daily L'Equipe – presumably rhetorically – how they expected him to react "about nothing at all". Similarly, Pat McQuaid, president of the sport's governing body, the UCI, refused to comment, while USADA were unreachable.

Armstrong has always flatly denied doping and although a two-year federal investigation was dropped in February, charges have now been filed by USADA, accusing him and four members of his back-up staff, including his long-standing team manager Johan Bruyneel, of systematic drug use during his strongest years.

If found guilty by USADA, Armstrong could lose all seven of his Tour de France titles. Dogged by accusations since his first Tour victory in 1999, Armstrong has been testified against – according to a letter published by the Washington Post – by at least 10 riders or former riders. Two years ago, Floyd Landis, the 2006 winner later stripped of his title after testing positive, accused Armstrong of systematic drug use, claims later echoed by another former team-mate, Tyler Hamilton.

Even so, and just as in 1998 at the height of the Festina scandals, most of the spectators yesterday seemed utterly indifferent, packing the Rouen pavements to see the riders off and then jostling for position at the finish in rainsoaked Saint-Quentin. For all the scandals, then, it appears France still loves the Tour de France.

News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us