Former Lance Armstrong teammates excluded themselves from Olympics
Meanwhile Italian paper reports large secret payments to controversial doctor
The Lance Armstrong doping allegations continue to gather pace today, with widespread speculation over the reasons for vast sums of money allegedly changing hands, and four of Armstrong’s ex-teammates asking to be removed from consideration for the 2012 Olympic USA cycling team.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie all asked for their names to be removed from the list of hopefuls before it was announced on Saturday.
In a statement, USA Cycling said: “USA Cycling will not speculate on the reasoning behind their requests and will not have further comment. Any questions related to their decision should be directed to the individual athletes.”
The four all worked as teammates of Armstrong at various times while he was in the US Postal team, under the management of Johan Bruyneel, who is also implicated in the scandal by the US Anti-Doping Agency.
Meanwhile Italy’s Gazetta dello Sport newspaper says that long investigation into Michele Ferrari, an Italian sports doctor, by the Padua prosecutor Benedetto Roberti has thrown up a payment of $465,000, reportedly made by Armstrong to Ferrari in 2006.
Ferrari was previously banned from working with athletes in Italy, but the payment in 2006 post-dates Armstrong’s retirement from pro cycling. Ferrari was convicted for sporting fraud and illegally acting as a pharmacist, but was later cleared due to the statute of limitations.
The prosecutor alleges that an investigation using wiretaps, email analysis and examination of bank accounts to build a case against Ferrari involves 90 cyclists as well as a sum of €30 million.
Speculation about both the money transfers and the avoidance of the Olympics by the four riders hints at sinister motives, although the Olympics has never been a high priority for many pro cyclists - Mark Cavendish famously said that Olympic gold was a ticket to a post-race career opening supermarkets - and the riders might have known in advance that USA Cycling was planning to select a predominantly younger team.
The team, announced on Friday, will be Taylor Phinney, Tejay van Garderen, Chris Horner, Timmy Duggan and Tyler Farrar.
Jim Miller, vice president of athletics at USA Cyling said in a statement: "We have a strong team going to London with a solid combination of experience, leadership and young talented athletes who are all capable of standout performances.”