Three former Armstrong associates banned for life

Tue Jul 10, 2012 2:33pm EDT

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong awaits the start of the 2010 Cape Argus Cycle Tour in Cape Town March 14, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/Files

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong awaits the start of the 2010 Cape Argus Cycle Tour in Cape Town March 14, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Hutchings/Files

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(Reuters) - Three former associates of American cyclist Lance Armstrong were handed lifetime bans for their involvement in an alleged doping conspiracy, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said on Tuesday.

Team doctor Luis Garcia del Moral, consulting doctor Michele Ferrari and trainer Jose "Pepe" Marti were all banned from the sport for life after USADA found they had violated a series of anti-doping regulations.

The offences included possession, trafficking and administering a range of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including erythropoietin (EPO), steroids, human growth hormone and masking agents, between 1999 and 2007.

"Permanently banning these individuals from sport is a powerful statement that protects the current and next generation of athletes from their influence, and preserves the integrity of future competition," USADA Chief Executive Travis Tygart said in a statement.

All three men have previously denied any wrongdoing but turned down the opportunity for an arbitration hearing when they were charged by USADA.

The penalties were automatically imposed when the deadline to request an arbitration hearing passed.

Three other men, including Armstrong, were also charged in the doping conspiracy but requested extra time to prepare their responses.

Armstrong asked a federal court on Monday to stop USADA's case against him. A judge dismissed the lawsuit but gave his lawyers 20 days to file an amended complaint.

Spain's del Moral and Marti and Italy's Ferrari all worked with Armstrong at various periods when he won seven Tour de France titles riding for the United States Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams.

Armstrong is one of the most successful and controversial cyclists of all time but has been dogged by accusations of cheating for years despite never failing a doping test.

A cancer survivor, he returned to the sport after beating the illness and won the Tour de France an unprecedented seven times in succession from 1999 to 2005.

The U.S. Justice Department spent two years investigating the claims against him but closed their case in February without laying any charges against him.

Last month, USADA announced they were starting formal proceedings against Armstrong and his associates, saying they had taken statements from former team members, who they have not identified.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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