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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lance Armstrong's Attorney Does Bay Area 'Tour de Balco'

Posted By on Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 12:30 PM

click to enlarge Not the same as a pleasant ride through France
  • Not the same as a pleasant ride through France
An attorney representing federal doping probe target Lance Armstrong recently traveled to the Bay Area to prep a defense against potential criminal charges, AOL's Fanhouse reports.

According to the report, Austin attorney Tim Herman recently met with counsel whose clients had been touched by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) doping scandal.

The idea, Herman said, was to reconnoiter the tactics of federal

investigator Jeff Novitzky, the former IRS sleuth who pursued Barry

Bonds. Novitzky now works with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's

Office of Criminal Investigations, and has lately been interviewing

ex-teammates, mechanics, and other associates of the seven-time Tour de

France champion. His goal:  To suss out allegations that managers of Armstrong's

U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team ran a secret doping program.

"I wanted to talk to some people who had some experience with" Novitzky, Fanhouse quoted Herman as saying. "All I really came away with was the BALCO template. I don't know if it will help me, but nobody on the government side is willing to share what's going on."

Herman was separately quoted Monday by the Associated Press complaining about purported leaks stemming from the Novitzky probe.

"The BP well is airtight compared to the government's ongoing spill of

sensitive and confidential information," Herman wrote in a letter dated July 19.

It's not easy being Lance these days - DENNIS BUDD
  • Dennis Budd
  • It's not easy being Lance these days
In reality, however, scant information seems to have have emanated from within the investigation. Several news organizations have reported on allegations by disgraced former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis that he, Armstrong, and other U.S. Postal Service teammates doped to gain advantage in the Tour de France. And others have cited one or two anonymous sources claiming have been interviewed.

But for all the reporting that's been done on the investigation, observers have not described with any certainty the most basic facts about the inquiry -- such as what laws a grand jury might have been told Armstrong could have broken. That is, if he was doping.

SF Weekly reported in 2005 that sponsorship contracts between the U.S. Postal Service and the San Francisco team management company Tailwind Sports were written in such a way as to allow the government-administered agency to cut off funds in the event management permitted doping. If team owners -- such as San Francisco financier Thom Weisel -- allowed doping, they would have obviously violated those terms. And if owners kept the doping secret from the agency, they would have denied Postal Service officials their contractual right to stop spending tens of millions of dollars on the team, thus greasing the skids for possible allegations of fraud.

However, coverage of the Novitzky investigation thus far hasn't discussed this issue, other than to report that authorities want to know if money from the Postal Service was directly used to finance doping.



One thing Armstrong attorney Herman might have learned from his recent San Francisco Tour de BALCO is that if an investigator asks enough seriously embarrassing questions, sophisticated legal theories might not be necessary to justify indictments. A perjury trap will do just fine.

Dick Pound, the founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency was

quoted in Velonews.com on June 5 saying: "Most of the people who have looked at all of the facts have already come

to the conclusion that [Armstrong] was a user."

And on July 14, the same bike racing website quoted Armstrong saying: "As long as I live, I will deny that."

In BALCO terms, Novitzky may have a hell of a case.

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Matt Smith

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