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.
crimes involving drug violations, fraud, conspiracy and financial wrongdoing. Armstrong's attorneys have said investigators haven't even told them if the cyclist is a target nor have they said what they are focusing on.
Armstrong lawyer Tim Herman wrote in a letter last month to the federal prosecutor that many of Landis' claims are beyond the government's jurisdiction to investigate and involve alleged acts that occurred more than five years ago and in other countries. The letter attacked the tactics of Novitzky, a Food and Drug Administration agent, whose investigation of the Bay-Area Laboratory Cooperative led to a conviction against Olympic sprinter Marion Jones and perjury charges against baseball slugger Barry Bonds.
Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a former federal prosecutor, said authorities will be methodical.
"If you are going after someone with the stature of Armstrong, you don't rush into this," she said. "You want to make sure you cover all your bases. It seems to me there is plenty of work to do."
She added that prosecutors are likely reviewing documents and trying to determine who they might want to testify before a grand jury. She said the doping allegations made by Landis against Armstrong and others in recent e-mails won't suffice on their own. Landis is an admitted drug cheat, stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, who adamantly and repeatedly denied using, then decided to come clean while divulging details about Armstrong. There's no way that will play well on a witness stand.
"His words are only good as the corroboration you have for them," Levenson said. "Other than Landis, who is on the inside and can help as well? If they have another person, it would speed up the process."
It will be hard to find a cyclist, however, who doesn't have a particular slant.
For instance, LeMond has been openly critical of Armstrong, and recently said he thought Landis was telling the truth. Any cross-examination of LeMond, though, will refer to his testimony at Landis' drug hearing in 2007, in which LeMond tore into Landis after receiving threatening phone calls from his manager: "I think there's another side of Floyd that the public hasn't seen," LeMond said.
Dave Kettel, a former federal prosecutor assigned to handle organized crime and drug enforcement cases, said investigators likely will look at any e-mails, money transfers or correspondence where Armstrong or others may have lied.
If numerous people are involved, prosecutors may seek to file a conspiracy case, which Kettel said "casts a really wide net."
Elements of the potential case include any evidence against Rock Racing and at least two lawsuits involving Armstrong that featured allegations he used performance-enhancing drugs.
LeMond's attorney, Mark Handfelt, said the former Tour de France winner received a subpoena last month requesting the delivery of documents related to a lawsuit involving Trek Bicycle as well as other information regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs by current and former professional cyclists. LeMond and Trek sued each other over breach of contract and settled the dispute in February.