Rouen - Lance Armstrong accused U.S Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart of waging a "vendetta" against him Thursday following reports five former teammates have received reduced suspensions after admitting to doping in return for testifying against the seven-time Tour de France champion.
"So let me get this straight ... come in and tell them exactly what they wanted to hear and you get complete immunity AND anonymity? I never got that offer," Armstrong wrote in an email sent to The Associated Press. "This isn't about Tygart wanting to clean up cycling — rather it's just a plain ol' selective prosecution that reeks of vendetta."
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that Armstrong's former teammates have been given six-month bans that begin in late September. Citing unnamed "well-informed sources," the paper identified them as Jonathan Vaughters, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde.
Vaughters, currently a team director at Garmin-Sharp's cycling team, said at the start of Thursday's fifth stage of the Tour that the report is "completely untrue."
Garmin-Sharp's parent company, Slipstream, later supported Vaughters' denial in a statement.
"We can confirm that our Tour team is entirely focused on the Tour and media reports of suspensions are untrue," the company said.
USADA wouldn't confirm the De Telegraaf report but released a statement warning that those named could be subject to "unnecessary scrutiny, threats and intimidation."
"Any attempt to circumvent the proper procedures in order to bully or silence people who may or may not be witnesses cannot be tolerated," the statement said.
Vande Velde and Zabriskie are part of the Garmin team. Leipheimer, who rides for Omega Pharma-QuickStep, declined to comment on the report.
"I'm just here to ride the Tour de France, and so far I'm still in the hunt for the general classification," Leipheimer said. "I can't say anything."
Hincapie also declined to comment, the BMC rider saying he just wanted to help Cadel Evans defend his Tour title.
"I'm here to help Cadel win the Tour. This has nothing to do with BMC," said Hincapie, who added that he hadn't spoken to Armstrong recently. "I'm sad he is going through this. He's done so many things for the sport. His accomplishments are incredible."
BMC team manager Jim Ochowicz also denied knowledge of the bans.
"We've not received any information from any authority about this issue at all," he said.
Armstrong has always strenuously denied doping and a two-year federal probe ended in February with no criminal charges against the Texan.
However, USADA has filed formal charges against Armstrong, accusing him of using performance-enhancing drugs throughout the best years of his career.
The agency notified Armstrong and his former team manager, Johan Bruyneel, plus several of his team associates of the charges in a letter last month.
The charges came after a USADA review panel examined evidence in the case, which now goes to an arbitration panel to decide. If found guilty, Armstrong could be stripped of the Tour titles he won from 1999-2005.
Armstrong's attorney, Robert Luskin, called the charges "wrong and baseless."
AP Sports Writer Eddie Pells in Denver, Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten and Greg Keller contributed to this report.