Report: Armstrong could testify against UCI officials over doping matters
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Report: Armstrong could testify against UCI officials over doping matters

by VeloNation Press at 6:31 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Indications that Texan may also become a witness in multi million dollar whistle-blower case

Lance ArmstrongIn the wake of his admission of doping to Oprah Winfrey, a mea culpa which will be broadcast globally on Thursday, Lance Armstrong is reportedly ready to testify against others who were aware of his doping and who potentially facilitated it.

According to the New York Times, unnamed sources have told the newspaper that the Texan is now prepared to give evidence against UCI officials in relation to the matter.

Those UCI officials are not named but several of Armstrong’s former US Postal Service team-mates gave sworn testimony to USADA last year, saying that the rider had told them that he had failed a test for EPO during the 2001 Tour de Suisse. They said that he told them that the UCI would help sort out the issue.

Landis spoke about the matter in his affidavit to USADA, and referred to the then-UCI president Hein Verbruggen.

“Armstrong further stated that he subsequently tested positive for EPO while winning the Tour de Suisse, the month before the Tour de France in 2001, at which point he and Mr Bruyneel flew to the UCI headquarters and made a financial agreement with Mr. Hein Verbruggen, head of the UCI at the time, to keep the positive test hidden,” he said in the affidavit.

Landis went on to say that he had been told about the issue while on a training ride with Armstrong in 2002. He said that Armstrong told him he needed to apologise for critical comments he had made about the UCI in relation to the non-payment of a claim relating to the Mercury team.

“He said there would come a time when we would need a favour from Verbruggen at some point, then he went on to tell me about his positive test in 2001 at the Tour de Suisse and how he had to pay the UCI to make the test go away.”

The UCI has admitted receiving payments of two large sums of money from Armstrong during his career, but has denied either payment were bribes. Verbruggen and current UCI President Pat McQuaid have repeatedly denied helped cover up doping by Armstrong.

Last year it emerged that Kathy LeMond, wife of three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, had testified under oath in a 2006 legal case that Armstrong’s mechanic had told her about another large payment. She said that following a positive test for cortisone during the 1999 Tour de France, that Nike and Armstrong backer Thom Weisel paid Verbruggen $500,000.

Both the Dutch official and Nike denied the story. The latter subsequently dropped its long-running sponsorship of Armstrong.

VeloNation has sought a comment from the UCI on the New York Times’ report that Armstrong will testify against cycling officials, but has not received a response as yet.

Suggestions Armstrong could testify against Weisel in whistle-blower case:

Meanwhile several sources have reported that Armstrong is in discussion with the United States Department of Justice in relation to a Qui Tam whistle-blower case launched by Landis, and which government officials are expected to soon join.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Justice Department officials have recommended that the government becomes involved in the case, which alleges fraud on the part of those running the US Postal Service team. The deadline for that decision is this Thursday, the day Armstrong’s interview with Winfrey will be broadcast.

The Postal Service – which is a government agency – backed the team from 1996 to 2004, and gave more than $30 million in that time. The contract with the team stated that it would be an ‘event of default’ if there was negative publicity over the ‘alleged possession, use or sale of banned substances,’ or if the team failed to take action if a rider violated a clause relating to morals or doping.

If Armstrong or others are found to have violated the False Claims Act, they could be liable for damages of three times the amount of money paid out. That could lead to damages of approximately $100 million. Landis would be entitled to a third as he is the individual who initiated the action.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Armstrong’s legal team has been trying to settle the suit, but they and the Justice Department are a long way from an agreement.

Weisel and former US Postal Service team manager Johan Bruyneel are also named in the suit.

The New York Times reports that both Armstrong and his longtime agent Bill Stapleton are willing to pay several million dollars in an attempted settlement in the case, and that the former pro is willing to testify against others, including Weisel.

Essentially it means that after being ostracised for several months, Armstrong appears poised to speak out against those who assisted him in order to salvage his own situation as much as possible.

One of his big aims is to be able to return to competition as soon as possible. He was handed a lifetime ban by USADA last August, blocking him from cycling, triathlon and any other WADA-affiliated sports.

According to the Wall Street Journal, he met USADA CEO Travis Tygart in a location near Dever airport in December and tried to strike a deal. Tygart is reported as having told Armstrong that even if he cooperated fully, his ban could only be reduced to eight years. That meeting ended with an angry Armstrong storming out but it appears increasingly likely that he will indeed testify against others in the weeks or months ahead.
 

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