Floyd Landis defence fund at centre of federal fraud probe
FBI was already investigating rider stripped of 2006 TDF win at time he made allegations against Lance Armstrong and others
Floyd Landis, whose accusations of doping against Lance Armstrong and other members of the former US Postal Service team were at the centre of a federal grand jury enquiry that was shelved earlier this year, is now himself the target of a fraud investigation related to funds he raised to try and clear his own name following a positive drugs test in the 2006 Tour de France.
Landis, who won that race, was stripped of his overall victory but continued to protest his innocence in a series of court hearings until eventually confessing to doping in May 2010, at the same time as he made his allegations against his former team.
Now aged 36, Landis had ridden himself back into contention for the maillot jaune in the 2006 Tour following a storming solo win in the Alps in Stage 17 to Morzine-Avoriaz, the day after he had lost ten minutes to his rivals. He subsequently tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone.
In an attempt to clear his name, Landis raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay lawyers’ fees and other costs through his Floyd Fairness Fund, although in September 2007, he lost an appeal against the United States Anti-Doping Agency, with the UCI subsequently formally stripping him of the 2006 Tour de France title.
According to reports in media including the New York Daily Post, that fund was already being investigated by FBI agents in Spring 2010, when they approached Landis to ask him questions about it, which could partly explain why, shortly afterwards, he decided to confess his own past and make allegations against Armstrong and others.
It is unclear for now whether any kind of deal was struck with investigators, although at the time he admitted doping, many who had contributed to Landis's defence fund took to online forums to ask whether by making his confession, he would lay himself open to a fraud investigation. That question now appears to have been answered.
The New York Daily Post says that this month Landis was sent a letter notifying him of an investigation by the United States Attorney’s office for the Southern District of California in San Diego. It adds that the inquiry is separate to the Los Angles-based one into Armstrong and other former US Postal Service staff which was dropped in February this year.
The newspaper states that sources indicate that the investigation into Landis is being led by assistant United States Attorney Phillip Halpern, who has in the past been involved in a number of high-profile fraud cases in the country, although he declined to comment on the case.
In November last year, Landis and his coach Arnie Baker were convicted in absentia by a French court in connection with charges of hacking into the records of the WADA accredited laboratory in Chatenay-Malabry, operated by France's anti-doping agency, the AFLD, in an attempt to gather evidence in his defence.
Last month, it was reported that the pair had lodged appeals against that decision.