Landis wore a wire, recorded video footage to implicate Michael Ball in doping investigation
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Landis wore a wire, recorded video footage to implicate Michael Ball in doping investigation

by Shane Stokes at 7:09 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Raids on Ball’s apartment led to seizure of banned substances

Rock RacingControversial Rock Racing owner Michael Ball was implicated in doping matters by Floyd Landis, who wore a hidden wire and recorded video footage for federal agents.

According to an unnamed source who spoke to the New York Daily News, Landis filmed what is thought to have been human growth hormone and other doping products in the refrigerator at Ball’s luxury apartment in Marina Del Rey, California. The audio and video data was then used by FDA agent Jeff Novitzky to secure a search warrant, which in turn led to the seizure of banned substances.

"The quantity and the quality of the video surveillance was pivotal in the decision to serve a search warrant and essentially raid Ball's apartment to seize the drugs," said the source to the US newspaper.

Ball was the owner of the luxury brand Rock and Republic clothing company, and set up the Rock Racing team in 2006. It quickly attracted attention due to his signing of several controversial riders including Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla, Francesco Mancebo and Santiago Botero, who had all been implicated in doping. Landis was due to race for the team in 2010 but that deal fell through when the team was refused a professional licence.

Ball relished in the attention generated by his signing of controversial riders, embracing a bad boy image for the team while also stating that he believed the riders deserved a second chance. He insisted that there was a zero tolerance stance towards banned substances, but the team was later investigated by Novitzky.

That investigation plus Landis’ allegations against his former US Postal Service team-mates led to an escalation of Novitzky’s enquiry, which now involves numerous riders and team staff and has seen federal investigators cooperating with anti-doping officials and police agents in other countries.

The Rock and Republic brand was adversely affected by the slump in the global economy, and filed for bankruptcy protection in April. It was reported as being saved in September thanks to a $60 million rescue deal by investor Blue Star Alliance. However the Rock Racing team itself collapsed, and while Ball has not yet been publicly charged in connection with the doping substances, he could face sanction at a future date.

Novitzky is continuing his investigation into doping into professional cycling. Landis has admitted taking banned substances during his time with US Postal Service Team and Phonak, and is cooperating with the federal agents. Several of his former team-mates have been questioned by a grand jury, and it is thought that things will move forward in early 2011.


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