Armstrong's old mentor to fight doping charges

Lance Armstrong's former team manager Johan Bruyneel has confirmed he will fight charges of allegedly engaging in a long-running doping conspiracy.

Bruyneel is one of six people, along with seven-times Tour de France champion Armstrong, facing serious charges of being involved in a major doping conspiracy by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

USADA confirmed late Friday that Bruyneel wanted his case heard at an arbitration hearing rather than accept penalties that could have seen him hit with a lengthy ban.

"Mr. Bruyneel has requested to move forward in the process and have his case heard at an arbitration hearing, which can be open to the public," USADA said in a statement.

"As in all cases, during the arbitration hearing, all the evidence will be presented, witness testimony will be subject to cross examination and will be given under oath, and an independent panel of arbitrators will ultimately determine the outcome of the case."

Bruyneel faced a Saturday deadline to either confirm he would go through arbitration, or face a ban by USADA.

The Belgian, who as a team manager has won nine Tour de France titles -- seven with Armstrong and two with Spaniard Alberto Contador -- confirmed Saturday he had chosen the former option.

"I can confirm that I have requested an arbitration hearing in which I will contest USADA's accusations against me," Bruyneel announced on his website www.johanbruyneel.com.

"It is my hope that a properly constituted, impartial hearing panel will confirm that the case should never even have gotten this far.

"Due to the sensitive nature of legal proceedings, I have been advised that it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage."

The decision means several witnesses could be called to testify against Bruyneel, potentially shedding more light on his long relationship with cycling icon Armstrong.

USADA claims it has witnesses to the fact that Armstrong and five former cycling team associates -- including Italian doctor Michele Ferrari and Bruyneel -- engaged in a doping conspiracy from 1998-2011.

Bruyneel faces a possible lifetime ban in the case, which could eventually go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

USADA last month announced that it had brought charges against Armstrong for doping. If proven, the American could be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

USADA handed life bans to three of the six charged men last week.

Ferrari, former US Postal doctor Luis Garcia del Moral and coach "Pepe" Marti were banned for life for "systematic doping within the team" during Armstrong's seven-year reign.

USADA chief executive officer Travis T. Tygart said the trio had chosen not to fight the sanctions because it "would only reveal what they already know to be the truth of their doping activity".

Armstrong, who has vigorously denied doping during his career, has tried to block USADA's moves in a US federal court saying the agency's process violates his US constitutional rights, and that USADA doesn't have jurisdiction in the case.

However that move appeared to suffer a blow on Friday when Senator John McCain lent his support to USADA.

"This process is the proper forum to decide matters concerning individual cases of alleged doping violations," McCain said in a statement.

Bruyneel, the team manager of the RadioShack team which is currently racing the Tour de France, did not travel with his team to the Tour in light of the charges, although he has denied wrongdoing.

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