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BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — The suspensions for Garmin-Sharp riders Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie, and Tom Danielson expired today, freeing the American riders to return to competition.
A suspension for Levi Leipheimer is also up, though the American — whose Omega Pharma-Quick Step boss Patrick Lefevere fired him in October following his doping admission — has not announced a new road team for 2013. He did not respond immediately for a request for comment.
The riders assisted the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) Lance Armstrong probe and admitted to using performance enhancing drugs in the past as part of their testimonies. They were given the minimal bans allowable under World Anti-Doping Code — six months — in exchange for their cooperation. The riders’ suspensions began on September 1, 2012 and were set to expire at the end of February.
Of the 11 former U.S. Postal Service riders to have provided evidence to USADA, Danielson, Vande Velde, Zabriskie, and Leipheimer are the only active riders. Danielson, Vande Velde, and Zabriskie each ride for the Garmin squad, which is managed by a fourth former Armstrong team member to have testified before USADA, Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. Vaughters built the team around an ethos of clean cycling, regardless of transgressions committed in the past.
And though the Garmin riders are cleared to race, it’s unclear where they’ll be lining up, as Danielson, Zabriskie, and Vande Velde have been quiet since the suspensions were announced and while the Armstrong affair boiled.
Garmin stood by its riders after the news became public in October in a statement. “The founding concepts of Slipstream Sports were put in place for riders committed to competing clean during their time at Slipstream Sports,” the team statement read. “While Christian, David, and Tom made their mistakes the better part of a decade ago, they also made the choice to stop. … Nothing can erase what has happened in cycling’s history, but we can learn from it. We can look back and say: never again. We can look forward to the crop of young athletes coming up not just on our team but also on other teams and have confidence that the future of the sport is here.”
Vaughters did not immediately return to a request for comment, and neither did his riders, or Levi Leipheimer.