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Armstrong unfazed by doping maelstrom

Lance Armstrong walks back to his car after running at Mount Royal park with fans in Montreal August 29, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Lance Armstrong walks back to his car after running at Mount Royal park with fans in Montreal August 29, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

By Julian Linden

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Unrepentant and seemingly unconcerned, Lance Armstrong was going about his business as usual on Thursday as the cycling world was left reeling by the revelations about his alleged role as a doping ringleader.

Five of his former team mates who confessed to using performance enhancing drugs were formally banned by USA Cycling on Thursday while Spanish authorities were reviewing the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) documentation after three of their nationals were implicated.

The International Olympic Committee was also sifting through the mountain of evidence that USADA said proved that Armstrong cheated his way to the top while the riders and officials were assessing the latest damage to the sport's already tarnished image.

"It is understandable now for people to look at any results in cycling and question that," the head of British cycling Dave Brailsford told BBC radio. "It completely and utterly lost its way and I think it lost its moral compass."

Bradley Wiggins, who won this year's Tour de France, said he was shocked at the scale of the evidence against Armstrong, who was banned for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France wins by USADA last month after electing not to fight the doping charges against him.

"It's pretty damning stuff," Wiggins told Sky Sports news. "It is jaw-dropping the amount of people who have testified against him."

Armstrong, 41, has always denied any wrongdoing and has yet to comment on USADA's report.

On Thursday, he seemed oblivious to the storm, tweeting: "Hanging @LIVESTRONGHQ w/ the team talking about next week's events and plans for 2013. Can't wait to see so many friends and supporters."

The Texan's lawyers spoke for him, attacking USADA's investigation as an unconstitutional "witch hunt", but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said the American watchdog had done a thorough job in trying circumstances.

"We would like to commend USADA for having the courage and the resolve to keep focused in working on this difficult case for the sake of clean athletes and the integrity of sport," said WADA president John Fahey in a statement.

There was little immediate reaction from his sponsors although Nike reissued a statement they first released last month, standing by him.

SIX-MONTH BAN

Five of the American cyclists who testified against Armstrong - Tom Danielson, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie - were each banned for six months.

"As a result of their testimony in the Lance Armstrong investigation, USA Cycling will enforce these sanctions and is currently reviewing the impact of the sanctions on historical results," USA Cycling Chief Executive Steve Johnson said in a statement.

"More importantly, I would like to personally acknowledge the extraordinary courage of these riders who placed their careers on the line in order to come forward with their experiences of past doping practices."

Spain's Anti-Doping Agency (AEA) was examining USADA's report to see whether additional action could be taken against doctors Luis Garcia del Moral and Pedro Celaya and coach Jose Marti, who were all part of Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team.

Garcia del Moral has already been banned for life while Celaya and Marti have elected to fight the charges against them.

"... the AEA is conducting a detailed study to determine whether the published documents should be passed to the (Spanish) ministry, as well as medical organizations and federations, so they can decide if there are relevant facts that should be analyzed or prosecuted within their respective competences," the Spanish agency said in a statement.

The IOC was undecided about whether it would consider stripping Armstrong of the bronze medal he won in Sydney, but said the case was being reviewed.

"It would be premature at this stage to say whether the IOC is contemplating any action," an IOC official told Reuters.

"Should we come across any evidence that would justify opening a disciplinary procedure we would of course act accordingly." (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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