By JIM VERTUNO, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — With Lance Armstrong digging in for a legal fight, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued lifetime sports bans Tuesday to three former staff members and consultants on the cyclist's winning Tour de France teams for drug violations.
Luis Garcia del Moral was a team doctor; Michele Ferrari was a consulting doctor; and Jose "Pepe" Marti (team trainer) worked for Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel squads. All had been accused by USADA of participating in a vast doping conspiracy on those teams during part or all of Armstrong's seven Tour victories from 1999-2005.
Armstrong also has been charged and has declared his innocence.
Several hours after USADA announced its sanctions against the others, Armstrong's attorneys refiled a lawsuit asking a federal judge in Austin to prevent the case against from going forward.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks had thrown out Armstrong's initial 80-page complaint Monday, but invited him to submit a new one that was shorter, more to the point and less about his career and personal battles with anti-doping officials.
Armstrong's attorneys refiled a 25-page suit arguing that USADA violates athletes' constitutional rights, that the agency doesn't have the jurisdiction to bring the charges and that it may have violated federal law in its investigation.
Armstrong wants the court to rule by Saturday, his deadline to either accept USADA's charges and sanctions or send his case to arbitration.
An Armstrong spokesman declined immediate comment on the USADA bans issued Tuesday.
Under USADA rules, Moral, Marti and Ferrari had until Monday to challenge the allegations against them in arbitration or ask for a five-day extension. If they did not respond, USADA could impose sanctions.
Although none lives in the United States, USADA says the ban blocks them from participating in any sport that falls under the World Anti-Doping Agency code.
"The respondents chose not to waste resources by moving forward with the arbitration process, which would only reveal what they already know to be the truth of their doping activity," said Travis Tygart, chief executive of USADA.
There's been no indication from USADA that any of the three men — who each received the agency's maximum punishment — is cooperating with investigators.
Armstrong was granted his extension while he files his court case. Also charged and granted an extension was Armstrong's former team manager, Johan Bruyneel.
Another team doctor, Pedro Celaya, also has been charged and faced the same Monday deadline. A USADA spokeswoman declined to say if Celaya asked for an extension or for his case to go to arbitration.
USADA filed the charges against Armstrong and the others in June, laying out what it calls a vast doping conspiracy on Armstrong's teams when he was winning the Tour de France from 1999-2005.
Moral, who lives in Spain, was the team physician from 1999-2003. According to USADA, he helped riders use banned blood transfusion techniques to help boost endurance. He also helped them use banned performance-enhancing drugs including the blood-booster EPO and steroids.
Moral could not immediately be reached for comment by telephone or email.
Ferrari, who lives in Italy, was a consulting doctor for Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams from 1999-2006, according to USADA. USADA said Ferrari developed a special mixture of testosterone and olive oil to be placed under the tongue to help riders recover from races and training. He also helped advised riders how to use EPO and avoid detection.
Ferrari's lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment and there was no answer at Ferrari's home. The doctor already was banned for life by the Italian cycling federation in 2002.
Marti, of Spain, who worked for the U.S. Postal Service, Discovery from 1999-2007 and then Astana, helped deliver performance-enhancing drugs to riders in Europe and helped with injections, USADA said.
"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," Tygart said.
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