Cycling Probe Can't Avoid Biggest Name

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08/10/2010| 0 comments
by AP, with additional commentary by Roadcycling.com
Lance Armstrong. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Lance Armstrong. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Cycling Probe Can't Avoid Biggest Name

Agents are engaged in a wide-ranging probe of pro cycling, people with knowledge of their work, and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong clearly appears to be, at the very least, a person of interest.

Lance Armstrong stands out in a federal investigation of cycling like a guy wearing a yellow jersey.

Agents are engaged in a wide-ranging probe of pro cycling, people with knowledge of their work have told The Associated Press, and Armstrong clearly appears to be, at the very least, a person of interest.

Authorities have obtained records of years-old doping allegations against him, contacted his sponsors and former teammate Floyd Landis has unleashed many new claims about him.

Many of the other big names in American cycling during the past 25 years, including Greg LeMond, also have been drawn in by this inquiry being led, among others, by Jeff Novitzky, who is credited with uncovering baseball's steroid era via the BALCO investigation.

A federal grand jury seated in Los Angeles, USA will decide where it goes next.

While federal authorities have not disclosed who they are scrutinizing, dozens of interviews by the AP with people involved in the case reveal a broad investigation that began with cyclists who had records of doping. It then turned toward Armstrong, who has denied using performance-enhancing drugs and has hundreds of clean doping tests as evidence.

Those on Armstrong's side appear willing to fight what has the potential to be the mother of all doping cases - an aggressive prosecution versus a defendant with millions of dollars and a tenacious, prideful streak.

Armstrong's lawyers contend the investigation is a waste of money. Armstrong himself said he would be happy to participate as long as it isn't a "witch hunt." Some people interviewed by the AP believe that Armstrong has been on investigators' radar for years. Others, however, say the evidence simply took them on a path that eventually, and without intent, brought them to Armstrong.

People familiar with the investigation said Novitzky's probe into cycling began after he was notified about a cache of performance-enhancing drugs that a landlord found in the vacated apartment of Kayle Leogrande, a little-known cyclist with a doping ban who rode for Rock Racing.

Rock Racing, owned by former rider and fashion entrepreneur Michael Ball, became the centerpiece of the probe, according to several people, none of whom wanted their names used because it could jeopardize their access to information. Messages left for Ball and Leogrande were not returned.

Then, Floyd Landis created a stir in April when he sent e-mails to cycling officials that accused ex-teammate Armstrong, along with his longtime doctor and trainer, and numerous other U.S. cyclists, of running an organized doping program earlier this decade.

That led to subpoenas, including the one handed to LeMond - a longtime Armstrong detractor - and reportedly former teammate George Hincapie. Tyler Hamilton, another cyclist tainted by positive doping tests, also is said to have received a subpoena.

Last week, Armstrong sponsors Trek Bicycle Corp. and Nike each said they had been contacted by federal investigators regarding the cycling probe and were cooperating.

Although most of Landis' accusations center on Armstrong's conduct in Europe, federal authorities still have broad areas to explore.

Investigators could consider charging cyclists with a broad range of

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