Amid his continued doping scandal, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong’s 2009 Nevada City Classic title is now in jeopardy.
The national governing body for bicycle racing, USA Cycling, initiated the mechanism this month to bring the local race’s 2009 results in line with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions against Armstrong.
“We have started the process of going back and revising those results,” Bill Killeck, a spokesman for USA Cycling, said in a phone call to The Union regarding the Nevada City Classic.
“The process is ongoing right now,” he said.
In addition to a lifetime ban from sports, the U.S. Anti Doping Agency, commonly referred to as USADA, announced in August it had stripped Armstrong of all of his results since Aug. 1, 1998, including his seven Tour de France victories.
When that report was released, Armstrong had the option of a hearing and confronting the witnesses — an option he declined when the deadline passed in December.
“USADA determined the sanctions, to which Mr. Armstrong accepted, therefore any results that don’t reflect those revisions would be inaccurate,” Killeck said in an email to The Union.
After winning the 2009 Nevada City Classic, Armstrong played a sizable role in successfully advocating for the opening stage of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California to be in Nevada City.
His appearance in both the Nevada City Classic and the Amgen race drew thousands of spectators to Nevada City, offering a boost to a lagging local economy.
“We were — and are — the only race he won at the pro level during his comeback,” said Duane Strawser, organizer of the Nevada City Classic. “That’s why we are a target.”
While USA Cycling contacted Nevada City Classic representatives about revising the 2009 results after USADA’s report was published, the governing body has not since issued any further mandates, Strawser said.
“We’ve asked the UCI and USADA for direction on how to handle the process. It is up to each race director to revise the results …” Killeck said in an email.
“We trust that any results affected by this sanction will be revised accordingly by each race director.”
However, Strawser said he was also instructed in 2012 not to rush to any decisions and wait to see what happens with Armstrong as his scandal developed.
“From my understanding, we have not been contacted by anyone from the Nevada City Classic,” said USADA Spokeswoman Annie Skinner.
“However, they are not required to contact us as the rules allow event organizers to work independently toward getting prizes returned after a result has been forfeited or invalidated due to an anti-doping rule violation.”
Armstrong’s doping scandal was again brought to the forefront on Jan. 18 with his two-part confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey, during which he admitted to doping for the first time, including during his seven Tour de France victories.
USADA Director Travis Tygart told 60 Minutes in an interview broadcast Sunday that Armstrong did not tell the truth in his interview with Winfrey and left out the most important facts that investigators want to nail down.
Armstrong told Winfrey he did not dope during his 2009 and 2010 comeback; that he raced clean, a time period which aligns with his 2009 Nevada City Classic victory.
Because Armstrong won just one race during that period, it might lend credibility that he raced clean, Strawser said.
“His testimony has shown he was clean when he raced with us,” Strawser said.
“We don’t have proof yet that he cheated. Right now, the test shows that he was clean and his performance shows he was clean and that’s all we have to go on.”
Additionally, Strawser said he told Armstrong before coming to Nevada City that he had to race clean or not come at all.
“Just contrary to the evidence,” Tygart told 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley. “The evidence is clear. (Armstrong’s) blood tests in 2009, 2010, expert reports based on the variation of his blood values from those tests, one-to-a-million chance that it was due to something other than doping.”
Pelley asked why Armstrong would admit to seven years of doping, but insist on being clean during his two-year return?
“I think it stops the criminal conspiracy and protects him and the others that helped him pull off this scheme from potential criminal prosecution, if that was in fact true,” Tygart responded, noting that a five-year statute of limitations does not reach those first admitted seven years.
“However, if the last point of his doping as we alleged and proved in our reasoned decision was in 2010, then the statute has not yet expired and he potentially could be charged with a criminal violation for conspiracy to defraud,” Tygar said.
USADA has given Armstrong a Feb. 6 deadline to agree to confess to his charges under oath, 60 minutes reported.
While a decline of USADA’s invitation is grounds for his lifetime ban in sports to become irreversible, 60 minutes reported that Armstrong’s lawyers have indicated that not only can Armstrong not appear by that date — but also that he is more likely to testify to the International Cycling Union, an organization that Tygart believes was complicit in hiding Armstrong’s doping.
“If he raced clean in Nevada City, then in my mind that result stays,” Strawser said.
If it is determined that Armstrong also doped while racing in 2009, Strawser said it would be hard to swallow, but he would want to comply with any USA Cycling mandate.
“I would do my best to comply with any directive from USA Cycling,” Strawser said.
USADA defers to governing bodies, such as USA Cycling, to revise results based on sanctions, Skinner said. However, USA Cycling relies to race organizers to alter their own results, Kellick said, noting that penalties are not an option.
“(W)e trust race directors will respect the sanctions,” he wrote.
If Armstrong’s Nevada City Classic results are to be revised, Strawser said he would want to do so to promote clean cycling. Until that happens, Strawser said he isn’t in any hurry to rush to any decisions.
“We plan to treat Lance the way he treated us then, which was extremely well,” Strawser said. “He treated Nevada County extremely well.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
“(Armstrong’s) testimony has shown he was clean when he raced with us.”
— Duane Strawser,
Nevada City Classic organizer