- We woke to find a news article in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that appeared to leak the names of Key Witnesses in the USADA Armstrong case, they were former team-mates: George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie along with Garmin-Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters.
- The Article stated that the riders would each receive six month bans after they confessed to doping and testified against the seven-time Tour de France winner. The bans from USADA were reported to have been agreed not to take effect until the end of the season, leaving riders free to compete and serve their bans in the off-season.
- Following the report, Jonathan Vaughters took to twitter and told followers: "Regarding the Dutch media report: no 6month suspensions have been given to any member of Slipstream Sports. Today or at any future date." But refused to say whether he had testified or not.
- Hincapie and Leipheimer were both quizzed by the press at the start of today's stage in the Tour de France, both had no comment to make regarding the newspaper report, either to confirm or deny its validity. Both said they were at the Tour to focus on the Tour and nothing else.
- Vaughters received overwhelming support on twitter, thanking all his followers - indicating that indeed he was involved. Vaughters released a statement to say: "As we have always said, we expect that anyone in our organisation who is contacted by any anti-doping or government authority will be open and honest with that authority but at this moment, we - our organisation, our riders and our staff - are focused on the Tour de France. We won our first Grand Tour in May and to achieve similar success here, we need to focus on that. We can confirm that our Tour team is entirely focused on the Tour and media reports of suspensions are untrue."
- Lance Armstrong takes to twitter and says: ''So let me get this straight...come in and tell @usantidoping exactly what they wanted to hear...in exchange for immunity, anonymity, and the opportunity to continue to race the biggest event in cycling..This isn't about @usantidoping wanting to clean up cycling - rather it's just plain ol' selective prosecution that reeks of vendetta.''
- USADA make a public statement: "USADA's investigation into doping in the sport of cycling continues. No individual cases have been finalised, and any attempt to guess at whom potential witnesses might be only leads to inaccurate information being reported and subjects those named to unnecessary scrutiny, threats and intimidation. It is important to remember that the truth would often be suppressed without witnesses who at great cost to themselves are willing to tell the truth under oath about what they saw and experienced, and any attempt to circumvent the proper procedures in order to bully or silence people who may or may not be witnesses cannot be tolerated."
Here's where it gets interesting: Johan Bruyneel, one of the accused alongside Armstrong, just so happens to write a regular column for De Telegraaf so we can assume the 'leak' has come from him, if not him then certainly somebody in the Armstrong camp. We heard in the USADA statement about intimidation, and that is what this whole exercise has been about. The story has been fabricated to make the USADA look suspect - a shot by Armstrong's PR team to say make the public say ''Hey, look, these guys admit to doping and get a measly six month ban in the closed season whilst Lance gets taken to the cleaners.'' Though the story is untrue, it has been designed with the cycling public in mind, hoping to gain Armstrong a few more fans and dismiss the investigation as a 'witch-hunt'. Its a clever ploy and one that Armstrongs legal team have used since allegations first surfaced many moons ago.
The report has also achieved the 'outing' of several witnesses with little more than guesswork as research. A cheap shot to unsettle those riders, maybe get them out of the Tour or lose favour with other riders in the peloton. The mood at the Tour though seems to suggest, thankfully, that this hasn't happened. It seems to have gone relatively unnoticed.
It's just another episode in the affair showing just what lengths Armstrong and co will go to to discredit the allegations. Last week it was reported that several USADA official felt that they were being followed by private surveillance hired by Armstrong's lawyers. Armstrong also appeared on ABC News saying "USADA continues to sacrifice the values of fair play which is what, ironically, they claim to be attempting to protect." and then took a cheap shot by accusing a review board member of having allegations of sexual misconduct in his past. Very unsavoury from a man who claims to love the sport so much. This isn't about cycling, or even about doping anymore. This is about one mans bullish attitude towards anybody and everybody in an effort to keep his integrity in tact. Well Mr Armstrong, I have news for you: You lost any Integrity you had a long, long time ago...