Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lance Armstrong Investigation: What We May Learn in the End

Note: Fraudbytes encourages contributions from readers. The following post is from a guest contributor, Reed Dempsey.

As findings from Jeffrey Novitzky’s investigation come to light, there are several things that I expect to come out. Here is a short list of potential findings.

The Raid on Michael Ball and Rock Racing

We all have seen a lot of articles about the raid on Michael Ball's apartment that say the raid had to do with the Armstrong investigation (e.g., see this link). Some are wondering how this raid is related to Armstrong. My guess is that Novitizky is looking for evidence of payments to doping suppliers and for written correspondence having to do with it.  Hamilton and Landis were probably brought on Rock Racing as "consultants" to help get the doping programs going. 

If Landis’s claims are true, these two were exposed to the best doping operation in pro cycling.  The Operación Puerto case led to detailed calendars telling which riders to take what (in what doses) and when.  Some articles published in other countries discussed seeing Hamilton's doping calendar (see discussion in Wikipedia).  Apparently they would fax his weekly plan to a fax machine at a hotel near his house, and use Haven Parchinski's name (Tyler's then-wife).  This came-out after a raid in Spain.

New Testimony About the SCA promotions Case May Vindicate the Andreus

As we know, Mr. Armstrong sued SCA promotions when they refused to pay the bonus he was promised for winning one of his tours.  If you own a team, and you want to give your star rider an incentive to win, there are ways to financially motivate that with a large multi-million dollar bonus, and you don't even need to actually have all of that cash.  For far less, you can insure the bonus and let a company like SCA take the gamble. 

Turns out, SCA heard about the L'Equipe article stating that Armstrong had actually tested positive in 1999 (when no EPO test existed, after the lab retested some frozen samples).  So they withheld his final bonus, alleging fraud.  Lance sued them, and they went digging.  And they found something. 

Frankie Andreu and his wife both testified at trial that while they were in the room being supportive of Lance on his cancer diagnosis, his doctor came in and basically said: "Tell me what you've taken, and what you take."  Both Andreus claim that Armstrong, wanting to live, quickly replied that he'd done EPO, HGH and testosterone with great regularity.  But  there were also other people in the room that day.  One of his sponsor reps from Oakley, his first wife, Kristin, and the good doctor himself. 

We can imagine why his wife would say she never heard him say this: awesome spousal support.  As for the Oakley rep, she wants to keep her job with Oakley.  We read last week that Andreu's wife has already been interviewed by Novitsky. I assume that Frankie and Betsy Andreu will be called to the grand jury. However, I also assume the others will too.  It's one thing to lie in a civil case, but it is quite another to lie to a federal prosecutor who is well reputed to subpoena everything but the kitchen sink.  If you lie, he'll know it.  Ask cyclist Tammy Thomas what the consequences of lying to the GJ are.  It cost her freedom and her future legal career.

Novitzky has put several people in jail for perjury. If they get Lance on the GJ witness stand, he'll either take the 5th, or he'll talk.  If he talks, it best not contradict his testimony from before. Also, his, now, former-wife also better tell the truth, because she can be prosecuted.  The doctor also doesn't want to lose his medical license, and no job at Oakley is worth six months in a federal prison. I believe it is likely to hear some or all of these individuals corroborate what the Andreus have been saying for years.

Armstrong’s UCI Donation

We can’t forget about that pesky issue of Armstrong's supposed "donation" of SOME amount of money to the UCI, ostensibly to help them assist in the fight against doping.  This issue came up because Floyd Landis mentioned that he had personal knowledge that Armstrong had bribed the UCI to make either past, present or future positive dope tests disappear. I say "some" amount, because Armstrong, Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen rarely seem to agree on just when, what for, or how much the donation was for.  When this first came out, every time they commented, the story changed drastically—especially the amount Armstrong paid. At some point, the three guys finally got their stories straight.  They now say (in unison) $100,000.

What's interesting about this "donation"? Some obvious questions include why Mr. Armstrong is suddenly interested in "fighting dopers" and why was the donation kept secret? Armstrong has been quoted in responding to these questions as saying: “If I've donated money to the UCI to combat doping, step up controls and to fund research, it is not my job to issue a press release. That's a secret thing, because it's the right thing to do.”

I find it curious that he was suddenly so interested in fighting doping.  Previously, Armstrong had a history of intimidating riders who testified about doping.  Remember Simeoni? Armstrong said he was protecting the interests of the peloton when he made Simeoni come back from a break. The reason Simeoni was singled out is because he was claiming that Armstrong’s former doctor, Michele Ferrari, helped Simeoni dope. Many in the peloton had used Ferrari’s services and Armstrong was protecting their interests by trying to let Simeoni know that his testimony was hurting these riders’ images. Armstrong has even avoided riding in the Giro D'Italia to avoid being questioned by Italian police.

The 1999 EPO Tests

Just before it was publicized that the French lab re-tested his frozen 1999 samples, Lance retired.  This is also when Lance made the "donation" to the UCI.  We may find out that Lance’s retirement was part of a managed plan to let the publicity blow-over.  The UCI rules did not allow them to go back retroactively and sanction anyone, as they could only penalize riders under the accepted testing protocols of the time when the samples were first taken (and no "WADA approved" EPO test existed in 1999).  The UCI further stated that they (additionally) could not sanction a rider who had already retired, so they ended the matter right there.  They did do an "investigation" about the scandal, and they hired a Dutch lawyer to conduct it.  He "exonerated" Lance.  Soon after, the UCI received the donation payment from Lance. Hopefully we will learn more about these donations, including the curious timing of the payments. 

I believe it's possible that Novitzky will show that Armstrong was committing fraud even after the donation.  In any case, Novitzky will want to see how money was flowing in and out of Armstrong's bank accounts (and I'd imagine the UCI's as well).

Lance’s Comeback

Lance announced his comeback in late 2008. Landis alleges that Armstrong's payments to the UCI were so he could receive advance knowledge of out-of-competition tests, as well as his team being given preferential treatment in how they were tested immediately after an event.  Since the rules have changed so riders can now be retroactively tested and sanctioned, Lance needed internal UCI assistance to start racing again in 2009. Once he felt he'd secured it, he returned to the Tour. 

If he could know when the testers were coming, he could stay ahead of the game. However, he got surprised one day after he decided to make a comeback (see this link). He was in France and when he came back from a training ride he found a French cycling federation (AFLD) tester at his door, seeking a sample.  He refused to immediately submit, so he invited the guy in (while Johan was on the phone calling the UCI to complain). He then vanished for 20 minutes or more, supposedly to "take a shower." 

Experts on doping tests have explained that with 20 minutes notice, athletes can conceal their doping. Lance may have been catheterizing fresh, clean urine, drinking a ton of water, or diluting his blood with saline.  If Lance was paying the UCI to tip him off, as Landis alleges, to when testers were going to show up for the out-of-competition "random" tests, they may have forgotten about how the AFLD does not trust the UCI. 

I think the investigation may show some of these things and also show that the French want doping gone but the UCI simply want to manage the perception and convince everyone that cycling is getting cleaned-up.  While the UCI are testing, we may find that those who pay them off are those not thrown under the bus.  


  1. The UCI "investigation" in response to the positive tests on LA's 1999 TdF urine was rejected by WADA as invalid and unprofessional. This "investigation" consisted of lawyerly whitewash (look for it online and read it), not real scientific invalidation of the results. The scientist involved in designing the testing (not just lab techs), Mike Ashenden, of Australia, is absolutely convinced that LA used EPO in the 1999 TdF.

  2. "Hopefully we will learn more about why the timing of these things" is one of the most strangely worded sentences I've ever read in what is otherwise a nicely-written article.