Lance Armstrong risks becoming viewed as “a symbol for decades of corruption” within professional cycling, warns the seven-times Tour de France winner’s former mechanic and personal assistant, Mike Anderson.
Anderson, a US national who now lives in New Zealand, told the country’s Sunday Star Times newspaper that he had spoken to FDA Special Agent Jeff Novitzky, the law enforcement official currently leading an investigation into allegations of doping against Armstrong and other members of the former US Postal Service team.
"I've spoken to Novitzky on the phone at length last year. The guy is described by people as the Elliott Ness of his area of law enforcement and if you've got him on your tail you're in big trouble," Anderson told the newspaper.
Novitzky has previously been involved in high-profile cases including that surrounding the BALCO laboratory which helped lead to the downfall of athlete Marion Jones, and his track record isn’t lost on Anderson.
"He doesn't undertake things he isn't going to win. Those guys have a ridiculously high ratio of convictions – they don't undertake superfluous investigations and I don't think this is going to be a good outcome if you're Lance Armstrong."
Anderson is one of several people formerly close to Armstrong to have been cited in an article regarding Armstrong published in the current issue of Sports Illustrated magazine that makes further doping allegations against the RadioShack rider, who yesterday finished the final international race of his career, the Santos Tour Down Under, in 67th place.
In a statement, Armstrong’s spokesman Mark Fabiani refuted Anderson’s claims with words similar to those with which earlier allegations against the cyclist, such as those made by Floyd Landis, have been rebuffed.
''Mr Anderson is a disgruntled former employee with zero credibility: his lawsuit against Lance failed and his most recent fabrications are contradicted by page after page of sworn testimony,'' said Fabiani.
The roots of the argument between the pair that Fabiani alludes to date back to 2004, when Anderson, who had worked for Armstrong since 2002, sued his former employer whom he claimed had gone back on his word to help him set up a bike shop.
That case was settled out of court in November 2005, and Andersen, who has lived in New Zealand for four years now, went on to open his own bike shop in Wellington.
In its article, the full text of which you can read here, Sport Illustrated says that Novitzky has obtained papers filed by Anderson under that lawsuit ,which contain allegations made against the cyclist.
Those include his discovering a box that Novitzky believes to have contained the banned substance Androstenedione, which Anderson, calling it ‘Andro,’ says he discovered at Armstrong’s apartment in Girona which he discovered when he was sent there to remove all trace of the rider’s former wife Kristin ahead of the cyclist visiting with then girlfriend, the singer Sheryl Crow.
Referring to his falling-out with Armstrong and his suspicions that his former employer had been engaged in doping, Anderson told the Sunday Star Times:
"To be honest when I finally realised what was going on it was very troubling to me because Lance was my friend. When I had my hand forced and had to say `I know what's going on' it was like telling a bunch of kids there's no such thing as Santa Claus; it popped the bubble for a lot of people who had deified Lance and it still troubles me.”
Anderson drew a parallel between the PR stance taken by the Arsmstrong camp and that of another Texas resident and friend of the cyclist, former President George W Bush.
"We hear the same lies over and over again and they become truths. One of the comparisons I've made about Armstrong to countless people is the kind of stuff that came out of the mouth of George W Bush about weapons of mass destruction and the war in Iraq. It was a bunch of made-up stuff and I think it's pretty funny that the media advisers to George Bush and Lance Armstrong are in the same building in Austin, Texas.
"It's the same group of guys who craft these nonsenical half-truths and the public laps it up because if you're a cancer survivor or a family member of someone who has gone through cancer you're far more apt to latch on to these stories because you need that hope. That's the irony really, that's the sadness behind all this in my view."
Anderson, who had been working in a bike shop in Armstrong’s home city of Austin Texas when the pair met, added that one of the motivations for his moving to New Zealand was that he could make a fresh start in a place where people wouldn’t know of his past association with the cyclist, adding "I'd rather forget it all happened".
Armstrong himself made no reference to the latest allegations as he addressed fans from the stage yesterday following completion of what is the final international race of his career.
Speaking of his participation in this year’s Santos Tour Down Under, the third year in a row that he has taken part in the race, Armstrong said: “It's been a great few years, not just for myself but from all of us in the peloton … look at the crowd here. This is amazing.”
“To start and finish in this city and to be all around you and here in South Australia, to be treated like kings as we are often - or not as we are sometimes - it's been a pleasure. I congratulate you all on an unbelievable event. This rivals the Tour. This rivals the Giro. This rivals the big races,” he added, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
“You should know that you made that,” he told the crowd. “The Premier [Mike Rann] helped support it. Mike Turtur [race director] had the vision.
“But if the people don't stand there and support the athletes, support the sponsors and support the race it doesn't happen. So for all of us in the group, all 130-odd of us. Thank you all. Thank you for being here. Thanks for supporting cycling.”
This morning, Armstrong and RadioShack colleague Robbie McEwen, who comes from Queensland, led a Twitter ride in Brisbane that raised a reported A$125,000 for victims of the floods that ravaged the state earlier this month.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.