Jeff Novitzky, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Special Agent currently leading an investigation into alleged doping within professional cycling centred around Lance Armstrong, is reported to be visiting France’s anti-doping agency, the AFLD, this week.
The news has intensified speculation that last week’s raid by Italian law enforcement officials of the home of RadioShack rider Yaroslav Popovych may be linked to the ongoing enquiry in the United States.
Earlier this month, Popovych testified on penalty of perjury that he had never seen evidence of doping while riding for RadioShack, or previously at the Astana or Discovery Channel teams. The Ukrainian rode alongside Armstrong at all three teams.
According to an Associated Press report quoted on the CBS News website, an unnamed source has confirmed that a US delegation, said to include Novitzky, U.S. federal prosecutor Doug Miller, and Travis Tygart, CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, have already arrived in France ahead of the meeting.
Pierre Brodry, until recently head of the AFLD, has previously said that the agency would be prepared to hand over samples of Armstrong’s urine collected during the 1999 edition of the Tour de France, which marked the first of the Texan’s seven overall victories in the race, if US investigators requested them.
In 2005, the French sports daily L’Equipe made allegations that traces of EPO had been found in urine samples taken from the then US Postal Service rider at the 1999 Tour, although world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, subsequently cleared Armstrong of any wrongdoing.
The seven times Tour de France champion has consistently denied allegations of using performance-enhancing substances.
However, he has come increasingly under the spotlight since Floyd Landis, stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping, publicly made detailed allegations in May this year of what he described as widespread doping within the USPS team when he rode for it, including against Armstrong himself.
Commenting on the prospect of investigators obtaining the 1999 samples, Mark Fabiani, counsel for Lance Armstrong, stated in an email to road.cc: "The samples were clean when originally provided and tested. So we have nothing to be concerned about. Period."
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.