Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lance Armstrong Investigation: Leaks About Scope

Several news articles are reporting that Jeffrey Novitzky's investigation into doping and fraud related to Lance Armstrong has led to a formal request from U.S. authorities for assistance by foreign prosecutors. This leak is being attributed to about a half-dozen people who are supposedly familiar with the case but requested anonymity and who were interviewed by AP reporters in the U.S. and Europe. According to these sources, the request was in the works since late 2010 but has been formalized in the past month. It's also being reported that the "evidence request specifically targets U.S. Postal and mentions Armstrong by name."

While this news about a formal request, in itself, is interesting in that it shows progress is still being made, it isn't very surprising to me. It was previously reported that Novitzky's team went to France late last year and met with officials from France, Belgium and Italy and that the officials said they would help with the investigation. However, some other information is being reported in these articles that, if true, I find more interesting. For example...
According to one article, a person familiar with the investigation said the Lance Armstrong investigation is different from the doping cases involving Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens since those cases largely involve charges of perjury. He or she went on to clarify that while the Bonds and Clemens' cases "were about lying. This is about corruption to the core."

"Corruption to the core" is an interesting statement to say the least! I'm reading between the lines that they are looking at charges of fraud, money laundering, and maybe even bribery of foreign officials which would involve violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Remember, Floyd Landis accused Lance of paying off UCI officials and of getting through customs checks with drugs.

Some more clues that this case is much bigger than simple perjury charges are claims that several organizations are now involved in the case which is being coordinated by the US Department of Justice. An article I read said that "one European law enforcement official" claimed that "Novitzky isn't the only one investigating" this case against Armstrong. The article went on to explain:
In America, investigators from the Internal Revenue Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the FDA are working on the case and reporting to officials from the Department of Justice, the AP was told. If criminal charges are ever brought against Armstrong, Levenson said it will have to get approval from DOJ brass. "A Lance Armstrong (case) will go all the way up the chain," she said. "(Attorney General Eric) Holder or one of his chief deputies will sign off on the indictment or be briefed on it. They will have input even before this case gets indicted."
So you might wonder what evidence the foreign officials could help Novitzky et al. find. An obvious bit of evidence are his many urine and blood samples that are still being held overseas. While doping charges in cycling require both and A and B sample to discipline a cyclist, no such requirement exists in a U.S. criminal case. As such, Lance's urine samples from 1999 showing EPO in his system is some of the evidence that Novitzky would want from French officials.

However, a case showing "corruption to the core" will usually involve all types of financial, email, phone and other records. Here is a quote that discusses this:
The US request...(involves) investigators seeking phone and bank records, along with statements from dozens of witnesses who have had contact with Armstrong over the years. One official who spoke with the AP described the combined efforts as a team trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle...
Finally, a few quotes about Novitzky's professional behavior were also interesting: "They want the procedure to be solid," one official familiar with the case said. "He is doing a very good job," the official added, referring to Novitzky's conduct during the probe. "When he bites, he doesn't let go."

While I am still unsure about whether Lance will ever be proven in court to be a fraud, from what I've heard through the grapevine over the past month or two, I'm thinking more and more that Lance may have his work cut out for him when dealing with Novitzky.

The cycling mafia may have met its match....Let's hope so...

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