The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is bringing doping charges against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, threatening to strip his victories in those storied cycling races.
Armstrong could face a lifetime ban from the sport if he is found to have used performance-enhancing drugs. The move by USADA immediately bans him from competing in triathlons, which he turned to after he retired from cycling last year.
Armstrong, in a statement Wednesday, dismissed any doping allegations as "baseless" and "motivated by spite" and noted they came just months after federal prosecutors closed a two-year criminal investigation against the cyclist without bringing an indictment.
The charges by USADA were first reported by the Washington Post.
USADA's letter to Armstrong informing him of the charges also said the agency was bringing doping charges against Johan Bruyneel, manager of Armstrong's winning teams; team doctors Pedro Celaya and Luis Garicia del Moral; team trainer Pepe Martin, and consulting doctor Michele Ferrari.
The USADA letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, accuses Armstrong of using and promoting the use of the blood booster EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, human growth hormone and anti-inflammatory steroids. The letter doesn't cite specific examples, but says the charges are based on evidence gathered in an investigation of Armstrong's teams, including witnesses who aren't named in the letter.
It also says blood collections obtained by cycling's governing body in 2009 and 2010 are "fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions."
USADA officials had said they would pursue possible charges against Armstrong even after federal criminal investigators had closed their case.
Armstrong, who has been in France training for a triathlon, maintained his innocence, saying in a statement: "I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one."