Landisgate: US investigators widen enquiry to include fraud
Feds widen their investigation while the UCI admits a teensy mistake
While his allegations that Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs have been dismissed by the seven times Tour de France winner, Floyd Landis certainly appears to have opened a can of worms that looks likely to keep the Team RadioShack rider and his PR and legal advisors busy for some time to come. And with Armstrong hailing from Texas, you can bet your ass it’s a pretty big can of worms too.
First, The New York Times has reported that federal investigators looking into the accusations that Armstrong and other cyclists took part in doping are considering expanding their investigation into other areas including fraud, with suspicions that money from the US Postal Service, his team sponsor during his first six Tour de France victories, was used to buy illegal substances.
The newspaper said that its source was two people close to the investigation who had been given anonymity "because they did not want to jeopardize their access to delicate information."
Federal authorities also intend to investigate a contract between Armstrong and SCA Promotions, which withheld a $5 million bonus from him in 2004 following allegations in a book that he had doped his way to victory. Armstrong subsequently sued SCA, which had to pay $5 million plus $2.5 million penalties.
Daniel C. Richman, professor of law at Columbia University, told The New York Times: “Federal fraud charges are fairly straightforward; they apply to any scheme to acquire money or property through deceit or misrepresentation.”
He continued: “In this case, the authorities would have to prove that Armstrong was misrepresenting himself to sponsors by saying that he was clean but was actually using performance-enhancing drugs and profiting from it.”
Meanwhile, UCI President Pat McQuaid, who last week joined Armstrong in dismissing Landis’s claims, has admitted that with hindsight, the sport’s governing body made a mistake in 2002 in accepting a $100,000 donation from the cyclist to buy – and this one comes straight from the you-couldn’t-make-it-up-department – a machine used to conduct blood analysis.
Speaking at the Giro d’Italia, where he was a guest at yesterday’s mountain time trial at Plan de Corones, McQuaid was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying: “To the best of my knowledge, the UCI has not accepted other donations and I'd just like to clarify that there was only one donation from Lance Armstrong not two or three. You have to consider that at the time, in 2002, no accusations against Lance Armstrong had been made. They've all came up since then. We accepted the donation to help develop the sport. We didn't think there's a conflict of interest. It's easy to say in hindsight what could or would have been done. You have to put yourself in the situation at the time.”
McQuaid continued: "I think based on experience, based on hindsight and 20/20 vision, and based on the claims of a conflict of interest, the UCI would be very careful before accepting a donation from a rider in the future. Having said that the UCI is not a rich organisation and we have many demands from around the world for demands for support and material. We will listen to anyone who can help us."
He added: "The UCI take seriously the accusation that the UCI took a bribe to hide the positive test of Lance Armstrong in 2001. We've contacted in recent days the labs involved for testing for EPO at that time. I have statement here from those labs that support what I am about to say … that there is no way that the UCI or its former president Hein Verbruggen could have accepted a bribe. It's just not possible."
McQuaid also said that he has requested the national cycling federations in Australia, Belgium, Canada and France to address look into accusations made by Landis against, respectively, Garmin Transitions directeur sportive Matt White, RadioShack team manager Johan Bruyneel, Team Sky rider Michael Barry, and BMC Racing directeur John Lelangue. Meanwhile, the UCI said that Landis himself is now being investigated USA Cycling.