Levi Leipheimer, a professional cycling star and the man most responsible for the sport's exploding popularity in Sonoma County, admitted publicly Wednesday to years of doping and has been suspended from competitions for six months.
The bombshell revelations place Leipheimer, 38, at the center of yet another doping scandal in the sport of international cycling and also threaten to diminish the reputation of a man known locally as much for his community involvement as for his skills on a bicycle.
Leipheimer is an Olympic medalist, a third-place finisher on the Tour de France, a three-time winner of the prestigious Tour of California pro race and the man behind one of the nation's biggest cycling event, Levi's GranFondo, a charity benefit staged each fall in Sonoma County.
Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa was supported in his Tour of California win by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, left, and Team Astana. Levi and Lance were both members of Team Astana in the 2009 Tour de France, but Levi had to drop out after a fall in the 12th stage. Kent Porter / Press Democrat
Levy Leipheimer, of Butte, Mont., of the Dutch Rabobank cycling team, prepares to leave the Tour de France press center for a training session in Luxembourg, ahead of the Tour de France cycling race, Friday, July 5, 2002. The 21-stage Tour will start in Luxembourg on Saturday July 6, 2002, and end in Paris on July 28. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Levi Leipheimer, of Butte, Mont., speeds during the third stage, a 46.5- kilometer (29 mile) individual time trial, in the Dauphine Libere cycling race around Roanne, central France, Wednesday, June 8, 2005. Leipheimer finished second to take the overall leader yellow jersey. (AP Photo/Patrick Gardin)
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Santa Rosa's Levi Leipheimer stand together after the prologue of the 2009 Tour of California in Sacramento on Saturday. Leipheimer finished second in the prologue. Kent Porter / Press Democrat
Rabobank rider Levi Leipheimer of the U.S. jokes with a hat prior to the 11th stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Saint-Flour and Figeac, central France, Thursday, July 15, 2004. David Moncoutie of France won the stage, Thomas Voeckler of France retains the overall lead. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Santa Rosa's Levi Leipheimer places second in the Tour of California's prologue in Sacramento, Saturday February 14, 2009. Kent Porter / Press Democrat
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong of the United States, right, rides with his American teammate Levi Leipheimer in Monaco Thursday July 2, 2009, ahead of the start of the 96th edition of the Tour de France cycling race Saturday July 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)
Levi Leipheimer is congratulated in Santa Rosa as he maintains the overall lead during the Tour of California, in February 2009. He won the tour for the 3rd straight year. (Kent Porter / The Press Democr
American Levi Leipheimer strains as he passes Monaco's Casino during the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race, an individual time trial of 15.5 kilometers (9.63 miles) with start and finish in Moncao, Saturday July 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Astana teammates Andreas Kloden of Germany, American Levi Leipheimer, American seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, and Alberto Contador of Spain, from left to right, climb towards Col de Port , France, during the 8th stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 176.5 kilometers (109.7 miles) with start in Andorra and finish in Saint-Girons, France, Saturday July 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
American Levi Leipheimer, his right arm in a cast following a crash in the 12th stage, walks away prior to the start of the 13th stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 200 kilometers (124.3 miles) with start in Vittel and finish in Colmar, central France, Friday July 17, 2009. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
American Levi Leipheimer reacts prior to the start of the 12th stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 211.5 kilometers (131.5 miles) with start in Tonnere and finish in Vittel, central France, Thursday July 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
His suspension is in effect during the pro cycling offseason. He would be eligible to race after March 1.
The revelations are contained in a Sept. 21 affidavit that Leipheimer submitted to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency during its investigation of doping allegations against Lance Armstrong. The affidavit and a companion admission of doping were released Wednesday along with more than 1,000 pages of evidence related to the case.
Leipheimer wrote he used the banned substances EPO and testosterone and underwent prohibited blood transfusions off-and-on between 1999 and 2007, which includes several years in which he participated in the Tour de France, the sport's pinnacle race.
Leipheimer stated he began blood transfusions in 2005 after he was introduced to Dr. Michele Ferrari on a training sojourn with Armstrong on the Island of Tenerife off the coast of Spain. Leipheimer said he and his wife, Odessa Gunn, accepted an invitation to join Armstrong and singer Sheryl Crow, who then was dating Armstrong, on the island for several days.
Leipheimer told of renting an apartment that same year in the south of France with now-disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis so that the pair could store their blood and "re-infuse" it.
Leipheimer also stated he ferried EPO from a rest stop south of Girona, Spain, where he lives and trains during the cycling season, for use by cyclists George Hincapie and Michael Barry, who along with Leipheimer were on the Discovery Channel Team.
Leipheimer did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.