Armstrong doping investigation overshadows his final Tour de France
July 16, 2010
After admitting last week he is no longer a contender for the Tour de France -- road cycling’s premier global event -- American Lance Armstrong will ride the rest of the way under the scrutiny of continuing doping allegations and a U.S. Grand Jury investigation into those allegations.
Two months after disqualified and disgraced Tour de France rider Floyd Landis went public with allegations that Armstrong and members of his then U.S. Postal Service-sponsored team used banned substances earlier this decade, a U.S. Grand Jury investigation headed by prosecutor Jeff Novitsky will explore allegations that Armstrong used banned substances and, in the process, committed fraud against a U.S. government agency.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Armstrong and his former teammates could be among those called before the Grand Jury probe.
It is not the first time the 38-year-old Texan has received heat for doping allegations and rumours – he has faced continued media exposes and accusations in France, home of the iconic Tour de France road race. This is the first time, however, that the heat and scrutiny is coming from the U.S.
Armstrong, who has never failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs, said this week that he would co-operate with a “fair investigation,” but not a “witch hunt.”
“As long as I live I will deny it,” he said Wednesday before the 10th stage of this year’s Tour de France. “There is absolutely no way I forced people, encouraged people, told people, helped people, facilitated ... Absolutely not. One hundred per cent.”
Armstrong is among the most remarkable stories in sports, given his record seven Tour titles alone. But his story transcends sport given his accomplishments as a cancer survivor. His tour success came after he the surgeries and chemotherapy which allowed him to recover from testicular cancer, which spread to his brain and lungs in 1996.
The one-two punch of his status as a cancer survivor and Tour champion has made Armstrong carry what Matt Sekeres of the Globe and Mail referred to as “crossover stardom in North America”.
Bruce Arthur of the National Post describes Novitzky, the lead agent on the BALCO investigation in baseball, as the “Eliot Ness of drug enforcement cases, or perhaps (the) Joe McCarthy…”
Arthur points out that the story takes on higher dimensions for Armstrong since federal funds were used when Armstrong's team was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service through 2004: “he would have been defrauding the U.S. federal government if his success was achieved through illegal means.”
AP international sport columnist John Leicester wrote today: “Going home early (from the Tour de France) might have made it easier for him to duck reporters' inquiries about the federal probe in the United States looking into allegations that Armstrong and other riders doped. From the comfort of his mansion, Armstrong could simply have ordered his lawyers to rattle off yet another statement dismissing Floyd Landis' accusations as garbage. Instead, Armstrong spent 15 minutes with reporters before stage 10 answering dozens of questions about the probe. Granted, his answers have now led to more questions. But at least he didn't try to hide.”
For more, read:
Matt Sekeres of the Globe and Mail:
Bruce Arthur of the National Post:
John Leicester of the Associated Press:
TheSportMarket.biz with files from the Globe and Mail, the National Post and the Associated Press.