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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Interpol, World Anti-Doping Agency Launch Investigations of Lance Armstrong

Posted By on Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 1:15 PM

click to enlarge No, no, not that way. This way...
  • No, no, not that way. This way...
At this point, who isn't investigating Lance Armstrong? The World Anti-Doping Agency has joined the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Attorney's office to look into allegations that directors of Armstrong's former U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team conducted systematic, team-wide doping to win the 2004 Tour de France, Agence France Presse reports.

Armstrong and his former patron, local financier Thomas Weisel, were the joint owners Tailwind Sports, a San Francisco company that was established to accept and spend tens of millions of dollars in Postal Service sponsorship money. USPS-Tailwind sponsorship contracts included anti-doping and severability clauses that would likely have been violated by organized doping scenarios of the sort spelled out in allegations leveled by ex-Postal rider Floyd Landis. Because of the Tailwind tie-in, if the accusations made against Armstrong prove substantive, both he and Weisel could be facing charges of fraud committed against the U.S. government.

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal published a feature titled "Blood Brothers," fleshing out the allegations Landis originally made earlier this year. The much-anticipated WSJ piece included the new claim that the team sold bikes given by sponsor Trek Bicycle Corporation in order to pay for a doping program. Check out Village Voice editor Tony Ortega's skeptical read of the story here.

click to enlarge 'Sometimes you're the hammer and sometimes you're the nail...' - DENNIS BUDD
  • Dennis Budd
  • 'Sometimes you're the hammer and sometimes you're the nail...'
As we've reported, FDA special investigator Jeff Novitzky, famed for his work on the Barry Bonds BALCO case, is investigating admitted doper Landis' charges that the the duo's U.S. Postal Service-sponsored cycling team doped during Armstrong's glory years.

At the heart of the Novitzky investigation is the question of whether U.S. government sponsorship funds were somehow tied up in doping practices undertaken with the knowledge of team managers employed by Tailwind Sports.

Today, AFP reported that World Anti-Doping Agency director David Howman has served as a liason between Novitzky, Interpol, and European law enforcement agencies jointly conducting a broadening probe.

"It essentially started with a US inquiry and is spreading," AFP quoted Howman as saying. "We've been persuading people to cooperate and think

that would be helpful."

As of Tuesday's third Tour de France stage -- across punishing cobblestone farm roads in northern France -- Armstrong finished more than two minutes behind stage winner Thor Hushovd. He now stands in 18th place overall, with 20 days remaining.

"Sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail. Today I was

the nail," he was quoted as saying after he had to chase following a flat tire. "I have 20 days now to be the hammer."

With investigators on two continents attempting to nail down leads about whether Armstrong used government money to dope his teammates, the cyclist's allegory seems apt in ways he might not have intended.

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