GEORGE Hincapie, the former teammate of fellow American Lance Armstrong who rode in all seven of his Tour de France victories, has come out in support of his ex-leader who is facing doping charges from the US Anti-Doping Agency.
Speaking at the BMC Tour team launch, Hincapie – who has been Australian Tour champion Cadel Evans’ teammate for two years, and who will ride a record 17th Tour before retiring this year – was guarded when asked about the allegations.
His remarks came just hours before USADA revealed that it was formally laying charges against Armstrong. The charges cover his career from 1999, when the Texan won his first Tour after overcoming testicular cancer, to 2011 when he retired after his comeback. The legal action could result in Armstrong being stripped of his Tour titles.
Asked if the controversy involving Armstrong, who was informed last month of the charges in a 15-page letter from USADA, had had an impact on his Tour preparation, Hincapie said: ”I am here to focus and help the team. Even the fact that I am retiring – thoughts are coming in my head and they make you think about other things; but it’s my job to be here and support the team and I do my best job … I don’t let it affect me, no.”
Asked if he would feel ”betrayed” should the charges against Armstrong be proven, Hincapie said: ”I have nothing but respect for Lance, for what he did for cycling. It was incredible. What he achieved in cycling and how he inspired millions of people with cancer is honourable. That’s all I have to say about [it]. I have a lot of respect for what he has done for the sport.”
Hincapie, 39, also raced for Spaniard Alberto Contador in one of his three Tour wins; Contador was stripped of the 2010 title after testing positive to clenbuterol.
Hincapie will retire after 19 years as a professional rider later this year.
Armstrong, who has never tested positive in a dope test, has denied the charges and is suspended from all sport pending the outcome of the case. He has had to shelve his return to racing in triathlon.
The latest development on Friday came after a three-member review panel evaluated evidence gathered by USADA and a reply from Armstrong. The panel unanimously voted to turn the allegations – first disclosed on June 13 – into formal charges. The next step is for the case to be heard by an arbitration panel before November. Whichever side loses can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
USADA has accused Armstrong and five former team associates, including former sports director Belgian Johan Bruyneel and Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, of illegal doping activities.
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