By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) - Lance Armstrong will keep his 2000 Sydney Games bronze medal for now despite being accused of cheating his way to the top in cycling, the International Olympic Committee saying it is still too early to take action.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said the American, who won the Tour de France seven times, was part of the "most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen".
USADA has banned Armstrong, 41, for life and stripped him of his Tour de France titles and on Wednesday it published the findings of an investigation into the cyclist and his U.S. Postal Service team.
Armstrong's lawyer called the probe a "hatchet job" and "witch hunt". The rider has denied cheating and has never failed a doping test but he did not fight the USADA charges.
"The IOC has taken note of USADA's report and is currently reviewing it together with all related documentation," an IOC official told Reuters on Thursday. "It would be premature at this stage to say whether the IOC is contemplating any action.
"Should we come across any evidence that would justify opening a disciplinary procedure we would of course act accordingly."
Armstrong won the bronze in the time trial in Sydney. The IOC has a statute of limitation of eight years to change results and strip athletes of their medals.
The USADA report, however, links Armstrong to doping before the Sydney Games and could offer a different legal basis for the IOC to act.
The comprehensive report contained the testimony of 11 of Armstrong's former team mates that, according to USADA, provided undeniable proof the American was at the centre of a sophisticated doping program.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which also received the report, praised USADA's actions.
"We would like to commend USADA for having the courage and the resolve to keep focused in working on this difficult case for the sake of clean athletes and the integrity of sport," said WADA president John Fahey in a statement.
"WADA welcomes the fully reasoned decision from the US Anti-Doping Agency with respect to the Lance Armstrong case and confirms that we will now, as with all cases, carefully consider its contents and the voluminous accompanying evidence.
"The process followed by USADA has at all times been appropriate and careful and in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code," Fahey added.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) has 21 days to decide whether to appeal against USADA's rulings.
"Thereafter WADA has a further 21 days to determine whether we will exercise our independent right of appeal," said Fahey.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)