Thursday, August 5, 2010
Report: Lance Armstrong probe widens
ESPN.com news services
Federal prosecutors have spoken with a former Lance Armstrong teammate who backed allegations that the seven-time Tour de France winner took part in and encouraged systematic doping, according to The New York Times.
The cyclist said he had spoken with investigators detailing his own performance-enhancing drug use and widespread doping by members of Armstrong's United States Postal Service team. The source did not say he told prosecutors about Armstrong's alleged use of PEDs, but said Armstrong knew of and encouraged doping, according to the Times report.
The rider said he has not been called before a grand jury convened in Los Angeles to investigate the case, according to the report.
Armstrong, who beat testicular cancer before returning to competitive cycling to win seven Tours, has steadfastly denied allegations of doping.
On Thursday, his attorney Bryan D. Daly released a statement saying the report contains "inappropriate leaks designed to create a circus-like atmosphere."
"To the extent that any riders are suggesting that Lance Armstrong violated cycling rules or doped, they are either mistaken or not telling the truth. Lance has ridden with hundreds of riders over the years who will support his position, and over all that time he has never failed even a single test," Daly said.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, declined comment about the report and Daly's reaction to it.
In May and during the Tour de France, ex-Armstrong teammate and admitted doper Floyd Landis claimed Armstrong and other team members used blood transfusions and performance-enhancing drugs. He claimed Armstrong encouraged doping and that the team sold racing bicycles to fund those activities.
Armstrong denied those claims, saying Landis -- who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for doping and denied using PEDs until acknowledging in May that he had in fact doped -- has no credibility.
But prosecutors now have more than Landis' accounts, two sources with knowledge of the investigation said, according to the Times.
Former Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton has met with the grand jury and more riders are expected to meet with the grand jury as early as next week, the sources said, according to the report.
Hamilton's lawyer, Chris Manderson, has previously said Hamilton, who is serving an eight-year ban for a second doping offense, had been subpoenaed by the grand jury.
Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond has also reportedly been subpoenaed.
And earlier this week, Armstrong's attorneys said the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is offering cyclists a "sweetheart deal" if they testify or provide evidence that Armstrong cheated.
Armstrong's attorneys say USADA's current offer is for riders to talk to federal investigator Jeff Novitzky, who could then give the information to USADA.
"We understand that riders may be being offered sweetheart deals to change testimony that they have given in the past, under oath," Daly said. "The power of the federal government is being abused to pursue dated and discredited allegations, and that's flat-out wrong, unethical, un-American, and a waste of taxpayer dollars."
Novitzky, a special agent for the Food and Drug Administration leading the investigation, has already contacted Hamilton and former Armstrong teammate George Hincapie.
Last month, Landis told ESPN.com that he had not received a subpoena but would not hesitate to tell a grand jury what he told Novitzky and U.S. anti-doping officials in lengthy interviews last spring.
Daly said cyclists who claim Armstrong was doping aren't telling the truth, according to the Times.
"They just want them to incriminate Lance Armstrong and that's my concern," Daly said, according to the report. "To the extent that there's anyone besides Floyd Landis saying things, the bottom line is, if you take away the soap opera and look at the scientific evidence, there is nothing."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
The former teammate, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had spoken with investigators detailing his own performance-enhancing drug use and widespread doping by members of Armstrong's United States Postal Service team.