WADA optimistic investigation involving Lance Armstrong will be fruitful, two implicated speak up
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Monday, June 28, 2010

WADA optimistic investigation involving Lance Armstrong will be fruitful, two implicated speak up

by VeloNation Press at 10:11 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Will Landis's credibility problems be helped or further damaged by new witnesses?

Lance ArmstrongAccording to the New York Times, two unnamed cyclists that will be participating in this year's Tour de France have cooperated with federal investigators on Floyd Landis's allegations that Lance Armstrong was involved in systematic doping while riding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) team.  Landis accused former teammate and seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong, along with several other cyclists and key figures in the sport, of being involved with or having knowledge of doping practices on his former USPS and Phonak teams.  The newspaper says the individuals asked to remain anonymous until the conclusion of this year's Grande Boucle.

The New York Times describes the pair that have spoken with federal investigators as "long followers of cycling’s code of silence that kept doping a secret", which would seem to indicate that they have made some sort of admission of a doping past.  Their names were not published, the paper said, for fear of retribution during the Tour de France, which starts this Saturday in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

The World Anti-Doping Agency believes that Landis's allegations have weight and will eventually yield results.

“I think we are very optimistic that this inquiry will be a fruitful one,” admitted the director general of the WADA, David Howman, to the New York Times last Friday. “But this is going to take some time because we’re not really talking about a simple antidoping case here. Remember the BALCO case, how long that took? Well, we could be still talking about this one in 2016.”

Howman is amongst several anti-doping officials that are constantly being updated on the case.

Floyd LandisBMC Racing's president Jim Ochowicz, along with sports director John Lelangue and team owner Andy Rihs have been implicated by Landis.  Ochowicz, who is responsible for bringing the first American team to the Tour de France, said he has nothing to worry about.

“It has no effect on me whatsoever,” he said from the team's European headquarters in Belgium, adding that the claims are simply untrue, unfounded and unproven.  When asked his opinion on doping in the sport he replied: “The authorities should absolutely stop it.

“But I have no clue what went on. I wasn’t a part of it,” he concluded.

Food and Drug Administation agent Jeff Novitzky, who was the lead investigator for the BALCO case that involved several professional athletes, is in charge of the Landis inquiry.

Experts told the New York Times that unless there is a "smoking-gun document" fraud cases can be very difficult for the government to prove, acknowledging that the Landis inquiry will likely be a long, drawn out process.  Given Landis's credibility problems, the newspaper's sources say that proving the allegations will be more difficult.  Armstrong categorically denies the accusations leveled at him by his former teammate.

Earlier this month, the Garmin-Transitions team called on any of their current employees with knowledge of the situation to cooperate with the inquiry, and to tell the truth ‘whatever that truth is.’ Dave Zabriskie and Matt White, who previously both competed with the USPS team, were named by Landis as having been involved.

General manager Jonathan Vaughters was also a former USPS rider, although he was not named by Landis as the latter joined the team after Vaughters left. If these or others confirm the accusations, it would lend the credibility factor to Landis’ claims.

“Quite frankly, I think the most doping in the sport happened during one of the years where there were no scandals and everybody thought everything was hunky-dory,” Vaughters told the New York Times from Spain last week. “When there’s a scandal, that’s actually when things are being solved.”

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