Lance Armstrong, shown during the 2010 Tour de France, has vehemently denied… (AFP / Getty Images )
Lance Armstrong accused U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Chief Executive Travis Tygart on Thursday of carrying out a "vendetta" against him in reaction to reports that five former teammates of the seven-time Tour de France champion received reduced doping suspensions in exchange for testifying against him.
“So let me get this straight … come in and tell them exactly what they wanted to hear and you get complete immunity AND anonymity? I never got that offer,” Armstrong said in an email to the Associated Press. “This isn't about Tygart wanting to clean up cycling -- rather it's just a plain ol' selective prosecution that reeks of vendetta.”
Jonathan Vaughters, currently a team director of the Garmin-Sharp cycling team, said Thursday that a report in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he and four others -- George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde -- had been given six-month bans is "completely untrue."
The report said the cyclists received the bans, which are said to begin in late September, after admitting to doping and agreeing to give evidence against Armstrong.
Vande Velde and Zabriskie currently ride for Garmin-Sharp. The team's parent company, Slipstream, denied the report in a statement: “We can confirm that our Tour team is entirely focused on the Tour and media reports of suspensions are untrue."
Leipheimer, who rides for Omega Pharma-QuickStep, would not comment on the report. “I'm just here to ride the Tour de France, and so far I'm still in the hunt for the general classification," he said. "I can't say anything.”
Hincapie, who rides for BMC, said he just wants to help teammate Cadel Evans keep his Tour title. Hincapie said he hasn't spoken to Armstrong recently. BMC manager Jim Ochowicz said the team had no knowledge of the alleged bans.
“We've not received any information from any authority about this issue at all,” he said.
The USADA would not confirm the De Telegraaf report and said in a statement that the riders named could be subject to “unnecessary scrutiny, threats and intimidation.”
The organization has filed formal charges accusing Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs during the best years of his career. Armstrong has consistently denied doping and emerged from a two-year federal investigation back in February with no criminal charges filed against him.
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