Liggett generates controversy with claims Armstrong investigation witnesses were bribed
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Liggett generates controversy with claims Armstrong investigation witnesses were bribed

by Shane Stokes at 5:39 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Veteran broadcaster faulted after comments on South African talk show

Phil LiggettLongtime cycling commentator Phil Liggett has generated controversy and come under criticism from many on Twitter today over an interview describing USADA as a ‘nefarious local drugs agency’ and alleging that a person who work for Lance Armstrong was offered a huge bribe to implicate the Texan in drug use.

Liggett was speaking to the South African website www.ballz.co.za in a Skype interview dated Monday, and was critical of the whole process investigating Lance Armstrong. The 69 year old is a longtime friend of Armstrong and ten years ago was reported as joining him as a fellow investor in the Ugandan gold mine run by fellow commentator Paul Sherwen.

Armstrong has been the subject of two major investigations over allegations that he and former team-mates and team officials were part of an elaborate doping system, referred to as the US Postal Service conspiracy.

While the first of those, a federal enquiry led by chief Balco investigator Jeff Novitzky was unexpectedly halted by US Attorney General Andre Birotte Jr. in February, a second investigation led by USADA was launched. This had different reach and power as doping is not a federal offence in the USA, but rather a sporting one.

Armstrong was charged with a range of serious doping offences and tried to have the process blocked on jurisdictional grounds by a Texas federal court. When that failed, he announced last Thursday that he would not contest the case before an American Arbitration Association panel.

As a result of that, USADA gave him a lifetime ban and stripped him of his results dating back to August 1998.

Liggett’s criticism comes in light of that. “It is politically motivated – they have a reason for doing this but it is not what they say, it is not to clean up the sport of cycling,” he claimed. “There is another reason behind this which they are clearly not saying…there is an underlying reason for all of this, and they are not coming clean.”

Liggett said that while he accepted that Armstrong’s era was one badly affected by doping, with many of the Texan’s rivals being implicated, that he had won his Tours clean. He repeated claims that Armstrong had passed 500 tests [a figure which has been disputed by some], and blasted the US Anti Doping Agency.

“Why is USADA, which is a nefarious local drugs agency in the United States, so intent?” he said.

The biggest stir was caused when he alleged serious corruption on the part of an unnamed agency.

“I met a chap who worked with Armstrong on Saturday in Boulder, Colorado. He told me that he has a visit two years ago….there were agents from a particular agency. They said ‘will you tell us that Lance Armstrong took EPO, and we can assure you that you will never want for money again?’ He told them in words I can’t put on radio what to do with that,” he claimed.

“They said, ‘I think we are talking to the wrong man,’ and walked away.”

He then went on to suggest that USADA’s witnesses, who are thought to include current and former riders and who testified under oath, may have deliberately lied.

“I believe these ten witnesses, who have all admitted apparently to seeing Lance take drugs or selling drugs or passing them on, and they themselves taking drugs…the reason they are witnesses is that they have either been paid or they have been given a deal that they will never be touched as far as suspensions go,” he said. “As this case has gone on so long, the vast majority of them are already retired. It is a filthy business, lets put it that way.”

Of the dozen or so witnesses USADA has gathered, many are understood to have competed this year. Their identities have not been announced as yet but the likely names are known; very few have had any previous link to doping.

Contacted by VeloNation about Liggett’s claims, USADA issued a response. “It is blatantly false information from someone who has never had the courtesy to contact USADA for truthful and accurate information,” said its spokesperson Annie Skinner.

USADA is currently compiling details of the case, the evidence it has gathered and the reasons for its sanctions. Referred to as a ‘reasoned decision,’ it will be provided to both the UCI and WADA sometime next month. Each can appeal to CAS if they are not satisfied with any aspect, although WADA has backed USADA this far.

Armstrong has denied doping and asserted he was still a seven time winner of the Tour during a speech at the World Cancer Congress in Montreal.

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