drugged-up sports such as baseball. But Novitzky may have a better
chance pinning federal charges on Armstrong than he did Bonds, perhaps based on the legal theory that Armstrong's team may have illegally involved federal Postal Service sponsorship money in systematic doping fraud.
Novitzky's visit to France is significant because, in 2005, the newspaper L'Equipe detailed
laboratory reports showing seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong
used banned drugs to aid him in his first Tour victory in 1999. The
newspaper revealed how the blood-oxygenating aid EPO had showed up in
Armstrong's urine. Armstrong denounced the story. And he was not
penalized, because the drugs showed up in stored urine samples as the
result of a mere newspaper investigation, rather than a formal anti-doping
procedure. Armstrong pooh-poohed the L'Equipe story on U.S. television
shows such as Larry King. But he never offered a convincing explanation
as to why signs of EPO use were found in six of his urine samples submitted during the 1999 competition.
The Associated Press reports that Novitzky was accompanied by
federal prosecutor Doug Miller, as well as Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S.
Antidoping Agency. The U.S. officials are reported to be meeting at the
offices of Interpol with officials from France's anti-doping agency
According to the Wall Street Journal:
U.S. investigators are most interested in learning more about Mr.Armstrong has been
Armstrong's 1999 urine samples, which have been preserved in
refrigerators at a French national anti-doping laboratory, the people
familiar with the matter said.
alleged to have doped a number of times over his career, and has
defended himself by saying he hasn't failed formal doping tests.
Armstrong's team masseuse was quoted in the 2004 book L.A. Confidentiel: Les secrets de Lance Armstrong
as saying the cyclist actually tested positive in 1999, at a race prior
to the Tour de France, for steroids he thought he would have cleared
his system before the tour. Masseuse Emma O'Reilly says doctors in
Armstrong's employ backdated a prescription for a legal ointment
containing steroids, and race organizers allowed it. Notwithstanding,
Armstrong's cancer-comeback story has given him an impenetrable
reputation with his fans, and he's spent this year pretending the Novitzky investigation did not exist.
Consistent with this PR strategy of "brazening it out," in
a statement Tuesday an Armstrong spokesman told the Journal: "the samples were
clean when originally provided and tested. So we have nothing to be
concerned about. Period."
To make a federal case, Novitzky and Miller may need to allege an ancillary offense
such as fraud. Under one possible fraud scenario, team owners could theoretically have
permitted doping, despite sponsorship contracts specifying the Postal Service's right to
cancel payments in the event of team-sanctioned drug use.
Armstrong was part owner of the
Postal Service team at certain points in its history.
To prove such allegations, federal prosecutors would need evidence Armstrong doped
-- such as might be found with the French anti-doping agency. They would likely need to
prove thatpeople with controlling, or at least influential, ownership interest in the team
permitted doping. And they might need to show that doping was in clear violation of a
USPS sponsorship agreement in place during the specific year the doping purportedly
With all those balls successfully aloft, a case might be made that Armstrong had
defrauded the federal government out of millions of dollars
Will the hammer drop?
Novitzky and Miller's trip to France suggests they believe it might.
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