Friday, July 23, 2010

Light from Lance's Investigation: Concealing Doping, Protecting Against Perjury, and More...

Here are a few pieces of information that I've gathered from some recent articles on the Lance Armstrong fraud investigation. First, I discuss an article quoting David Millar as to how cyclists have avoided getting caught doping in the past. Then, the post discusses various legal aspects of Lance Armstrong's fraud investigation including what Lance is doing to protect himself and the likely strategy of the prosecution.

First, a recent NY Times article quoted pro cyclist, David Millar, as saying that back in Lance's heyday, before being tested, cyclists would put a protein on their hands that would allow them to conceal their use of EPO from the testing process. Millar would know since he admitted using EPO after his apartment was raided and they found EPO and syringes. After confessing, Millar was banned from racing for two years but is now racing again. He is a member of WADA's athlete committee and he explained why pro cyclists have a chaperone assigned to them after their race is over who watches what they are doing and requires them to wear gloves so they can't put the protein on their hands to conceal the EPO from the test. (For a more thorough analysis of some of the things pro cyclists have done to avoid getting caught doping, see the links to the article linked here.)

The purpose for assigning a chaperone these days is to keep riders from doing other things to conceal their drug use. Millar explained that concealing their drug use from the tests was not much problem back when Lance Armstrong was being tested. He said: “There was absolutely no guarantee that riders who were doping back then were caught.” Here is an interesting quote about one time Millar won a stage in the Tour de France and was able to avoid detection:

(I)n those days it would have been easy for dopers to escape detection. He recalled the Tour’s time trial in 2003, a stage he won. He said he sat around for three or four hours after his ride “doing whatever I wanted” before ending up on the podium and providing samples for drug testing.

“One of the reasons they brought chaperons here was because they realized people had the time to tamper and find ways to alter their samples, and that people were playing around to get around the drug tests.” 
 It doesn't surprise me that the pro cyclists have ways to conceal their doping from the drug tests. These are dedicated fraudsters who have doctors and scientists who know what WADA does to test for their drug use and they can find ways around the tests. I've thought that this was the case for some time but to hear Floyd Landis, David Millar and others explain how they avoided detection is, in my view, some good progress toward cleaning up the doping problem.

Regarding Lance Armstrong's fraud investigation, here are a few things I've learned:

  • Lance has hired a big gun defense attorney to protect him from Jeffrey Novitzky's fraud investigation. His defense attorney, Brian D. Daly, is ranked as one of the top ten defense attorneys by some sources and has extensive background in fraud cases. Lance explains Daly's hiring as routine business that anyone would engage in. However, since Daly is in addition to his other attorneys working to protect him, it looks more than routine to me. I think Novitzky's progress is making Lance nervous. That may explain why he's crashed so many times in the Tour de France including while riding to the start line this week...
  • Tyler Hamilton is working with his attorney to find a way for him to bear his soul but do it anonymously. ESPN reported that Hamilton's attorney is talking to investigators to "work out ground rules and arrange a situation where Hamilton can speak confidentially and give them the information they need."
  • Another source gave some insight into Novitky's investigation. First, we know Novitzky is going to try to find evidence that the USPS cycling team used funds for doping. As for doping itself, legal problems such as the statue of limitations will complicate issues, especially given that the doping was likely on foreign soil. However, one strategy Novitzky is likely to take (as he did in the Balco case) is to get athletes to testify and then ask them if they used drugs. Then, he will pursue perjury charges against those who he has evidence that they are lying. This approach allows Novitzky to get around the statue of limitations and foreign soil difficulties since the perjury will be recent even if the doping was ten years ago, and it will be on American soil.
  • Finally, Greg LeMond is acting like a kid in a candy store. He is quoted as saying that he looks forward to testifying and helping the investigation. He also said that he thinks the evidence will be overwhelming against Lance. After all these years of being blamed as someone who is jealous of his fellow American's success, LeMond is clearly hoping to be vindicated in his longtime accusations that Armstrong is a fraud and a doper.

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