Former Armstrong teammates deny ban report
ROUEN, France (AP) - A director of Garmin-Sharp denied that any of the cycling team's riders have been banned for six months by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency as part of its doping probe into seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
Jonathan Vaughters said on Thursday that a Dutch media report about six-month bans is "completely untrue.''
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that Vaughters and four other former teammates of Armstrong have been given six-month bans that are to begin in late September.
De Telegraaf cited unnamed "well-informed sources'' in its report that Vaughters, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde received the bans after admitting to doping and agreeing to give evidence against Armstrong.
Vande Velde and Zabriskie are part of the Garmin team.
Leipheimer, who rides for Omega Pharma-QuickStep, declined to 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 also declined to comment, the BMC rider saying he just wanted to help Cadel Evans defend his Tour title.
"I'm here to help Cadel win the Tour. This has nothing to do with BMC,'' said Hincapie, who added that he hadn't spoken to Armstrong recently. "I'm sad he is going through this. He's done so many things for the sport. His accomplishments are incredible.''
BMC team manager Jim Ochowicz also denied knowledge of the bans.
"We've not received any information from any authority about this issue at all,'' he said.
Armstrong has always strenuously denied doping and a two-year federal probe ended in February with no criminal charges against the Texan.
However, USADA has filed formal charges against Armstrong, accusing him of using performance-enhancing drugs throughout the best years of his career.
The agency notified Armstrong and his former team manager, Johan Bruyneel, plus several of his team associates of the charges in a letter last month.
The charges came after a USADA review panel examined evidence in the case, which now goes to an arbitration panel to decide. If found guilty, Armstrong could be stripped of the Tour titles he won from 1999-2005.
Armstrong's attorney, Robert Luskin, called the charges "wrong and baseless.''
Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten and Greg Keller contributed to this report.
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