A front-page splash in Dutch Newspaper De Telegraaf caused a huge stir yesterday when it revealed an anonymous source had tipped the paper off about key information on the US Anti Doping Agency's (USADA) case against seven-time Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong.
The paper reported that five key witnesses in the case, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie and now Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters, had admitted to doping in exchange for testimony against the Texan, and reduced six-month bans.
All five named by De Telegraaf were former team-mates of Armstrong at different points in their careers, and of the four riders named, all are currently riding the Tour de France.
The allegations sparked a media frenzy, with scrums camping at the Garmin-Sharp hotel and the BMC team bus to get statements.
Jonathan Vaughters affirmed his team's long-held charter which expects riders to be transparent and helpful in any way if contacted by a anti-doping body.
He also directly denied the allegations of any six-month bans being given to any of his riders at "this time, or any future time". He added that anyone wanting to check the veracity of that should contact USADA, which would confirm it.
BMC's George Hincapie said he wanted to focus on the Tour de France, and helping Cadel Evans win a second Tour de France. When questions persisted he offered only that, "I've always done the right thing by the sport".
Dave Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde, and Levi Leipheimer all refused to comment to journalists when confronted by questions over the report.
Cycling Central contacted the journalist responsible for the initial report after Stage 5, Raymond Kerckhoff, who insisted the report made in De Telegraaf was accurate.
"We had a source that told us that the five named had made a deal with USADA in relation to the case against Lance Armstrong.
"According to the source, they confirmed in their testimonies that they had doped, but suspensions would not be laid until after the Vuelta a Espana."
Cycling Central pressed Kerckhoff on his confidence in the sources despite doubt being cast by those involved, particularly Vaughters, but Kerckhoff said he had total faith in the newspaper's story.
"We have a very good source, otherwise we would not publish. We re-contacted him today, and he reaffirmed what he'd said was 100 per cent correct."
Lance Armstrong himself sprayed the investigation and USADA, who he blamed for the leaks over Twitter.
So let me get this straight...come in and tell@usantidoping exactly what they wanted to hear...— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) July 5, 2012
...in exchange for immunity, anonymity, and the opportunity to continue to race the biggest event in cycling..— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) July 5, 2012
This isn't about @usantidoping wanting to clean up cycling - rather it's just plain ol' selective prosecution that reeks of vendetta.— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) July 5, 2012
"Any attempt to guess at whom potential witnesses might be only leads to inaccurate information being reported and subjects those named to unnecessary scrutiny, threats and intimidation," said the USADA's Travis Tygart.
No person named in the report directly denied the accusation, other than Vaughters comments over individual suspensions.
Despite Armstrong's own suggestions otherwise, it's unclear what the USADA, or any of those named in the De Telegraaf report had to gain from the leak.
Armstrong's case will next move to arbitration, after the USADA review board approved the case to go forward. A date for the hearing is set for later this year.