While Lance Armstrong’s challenge in his final Tour de France may have come to grief on Stage 8 to Morzine-Avoriaz last Sunday, momentum is gathering for a future – and potentially equally gripping – battle involving the Team RadioShack leader with the news that a federal grand jury has issued a subpoena to Trek Bicycle Corporation, whose bikes were ridden by the Texan to each of his seven victories in cycling’s biggest race.
According to the New York Daily News, the move is linked to the ongoing investigation into allegations by Floyd Landis, the 2006 Tour de France winner who was subsequently stripped of his title after testing positive for excessive levels of testosterone, that Armstrong and other members of the US Postal Service team were involved in doping while Landis was on the team.
One of Landis’s accusations, published in The Wall Street Journal on the day this year’s Tour de France began in Rotterdam, was that the team, then managed by Johann Bruyneel who is now team manager of RadioShack, had sold bikes supplied by Trek in order to raise money to buy performance enhancing substances, and this appears to be the reason for the grand jury requesting the documents.
Federal grand juries, which convene in secrecy, have the power to issue subpoenas for documents, witness testimony, or both. According to a Daily News source close to the case, testimony subpoenas have not yet been issued.
The New York Daily News quoted a Trek spokesman, Bill Mashek – said on internet message boards to be an external consultant who is a expert on crisi management – as saying that the company was unable to comment on a current federal investigation.
Instead, Mashek directed the newspaper to a statement from Trek that said: "Trek will not comment on whether or not it has been contacted by federal investigators; however, if contacted, the company would fully cooperate in an investigation."
Earlier this month The Wall Street Journal quoted Landis saying Armstrong's team sold high-end racing bikes to finance an sophisticated doping program that included blood transfusions and performance-enhancing drug use. Armstrong has strenuously denied all allegations that he doped on his way to Tour de France victories. His attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trek told the New York Daily News that it had “no knowledge of the sale of any team bikes to purchase drugs," adding that "We did not, and never would, condone such activity. Trek does not support doping in cycling and has included in all of its sponsorship contracts the right to terminate any athlete who violates the doping rules."
However, the Wall Street Journal article earlier this month quoted Robert Burns, Trek's General Counsel, as saying that the company knew that bikes intended for team use had been sold, although he claimed that the company had no knowledge of how the funds raised were applied. "Occasionally, you'd see a bike on the Internet somewhere where it would surprise us," said Burns.
"We didn't want to see that stuff getting sold on the market. It should be going to a better use than that," he added, while refusing to tell the newspaper whether or not Trek had been approached by investigators.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.