Lance Armstrong, pictured here with the team at a 2009 training camp, says he has nothing to do with the management of the CSE-run Bontrager development team. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.comSeven months after the U.S. Anti-Dopi...
Lance Armstrong, pictured here with the team at a 2009 training camp, says he has nothing to do with the management of the CSE-run Bontrager development team. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.comSeven months after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency described Lance Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service team as having run “the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,” the disgraced team’s ownership structure — which includes the banned cyclist himself — retains a quiet role in professional cycling.
Though it no longer has a financial stake in the Luxembourg-based RadioShack-Leopard UCI ProTeam, Austin-based Capital Sports and Entertainment (which, along with Tailwind Sports, co-owned the Postal Service team) is the registered team representative for the Bontrager Cycling development squad, officials with USA Cycling confirmed.
Capital Sports and Entertainment (CSE), which was also the managing entity behind Armstrong’s Discovery Channel and RadioShack teams, is owned and operated by the rider’s longtime agent, Bill Stapleton, and business partner Bart Knaggs. Media reports have consistently named Armstrong as a “partner” and a “minority shareholder” in the company.
Contacted by VeloNews, both Armstrong and Knaggs declined to go on record when asked to define Armstrong’s personal stake in CSE.
In October, following USADA’s reasoned decision, UCI president Pat McQuaid stated that Armstrong “had no place in cycling,” adding, “He deserves to be forgotten in cycling.”
Several former riders who have admitted to doping now run pro teams, including Bjarne Riis, who manages Saxo-Tinkoff; Alexander Vinokourov, who manages Astana; Neil Stephens, who manages Orica-GreenEdge; and Jonathan Vaughters, who manages Garmin-Sharp. None of those men, however, have received lifetime bans from an anti-doping agency.
When Armstrong turned down an opportunity in February to sit down and share his experiences with USADA, he missed his final opportunity to see his lifetime ban reduced to eight years.
The Bontrager team began as Trek-Livestrong in 2009, in tandem with Armstrong’s comeback, and has spawned the careers of riders such as former maglia rosa Taylor Phinney, Giro d’Italia stage winner Alex Dowsett, and Sky neo-pro Joe Dombrowski.
However, Armstrong’s continuing connection to cycling drew a sharp rebuke from anti-doping officials.
“Mr. Armstrong has a lifetime ban from sport, and under the rules is not allowed to operate or have ownership in any part of a licensed cycling team,” said USADA spokesperson Annie Skinner.
Just how CSE has managed to retain its role as the principal behind the Continental development squad is a question neither the sport’s global governing body, the UCI, nor USA Cycling have been willing to answer in detail.
Questioned by VeloNews, a spokesperson for the UCI directed questions to USA Cycling, noting that the vetting and registration of Continental cycling teams falls under the sole jurisdiction of the sport’s national federations.
“The UCI is not aware of any reason that would have prevented [the] Bontrager Cycling Team from being registered,” said UCI communications manager Devra Pitt Gétaz.
USA Cycling, in turn, pointed to its own compliance with UCI rules governing the team registration process.
In an e-mail to VeloNews, USAC communications director Bill Kellick explained that “the Bontrager team met all requirements and obligations” and that “neither USADA nor the UCI has informed us that there is any issue with CSE managing the Bontrager team.”
USADA’s Skinner took aim at the governing bodies in a statement to VeloNews, suggesting her agency might intercede in the matter.
“USA Cycling and [the] UCI should be monitoring who owns and operates the teams they grant licenses to. If Mr. Armstrong has ownership in Capital Sports and Entertainment, it would obviously be a serious issue that, after UCI publicly announced that Mr. Armstrong has no place in cycling, he