Steroid Investigators Target Armstrong After Winning Athletes’ Convictions
Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, who two former teammates say took banned performance-enhancing substances, is facing a legal process that eventually proved similar allegations against other professional athletes accused of doping.
Armstrong, former leader of the U.S. Postal Service cycling team, injected himself with strength-enhancing drugs on numerous occasions and encouraged the practice, former teammate Tyler Hamilton said on “60 Minutes” May 23. Hamilton said he testified before a federal grand jury investigating Armstrong, who has repeatedly denied taking banned substances.
Similar investigations that garnered evidence from teammates, associates and other athletes eventually led to indictments and convictions for Barry Bonds, baseball’s homerun record-holder, Olympic sprinter Marion Jones and her coach Trevor Graham, Dana Stubblefield, an 11-season veteran of the National Football League, and other professional sports figures.
“You could assume this dance will be the same with regards to Armstrong,” William Gould, a Stanford University law professor, said. “This has been a theme that has run through all these cases and will play out yet with Armstrong.”
Armstrong is being investigated by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, said a person familiar with the matter who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public. Bryan Daly, an attorney for Armstrong, didn’t return a call seeking comment yesterday.
Floyd Landis, an Armstrong teammate stripped of his 2006 Tour title for doping, said last May that he and Armstrong were among members of the U.S. Postal Service team who used drugs to improve performance.
Armstrong, 39, has had 500 clean drug tests, said his spokesman, Mark Fabiani.
Hamilton and other athletes who talked to “60 Minutes” aren’t credible, having in the past denied doping only to change their stories out of “greed and a hunger for publicity,” Fabiani said in statements posted on the website Facts4Lance.com.
In 2005 and 2009, Hamilton was suspended from cycling for doping. Last week, he returned the Olympic gold medal he won in 2004.
Hamilton is “a confessed liar in search of a book deal,” Fabiani said.
“These are the same tired, old attacks from the same tired old rottweilers,” Chris Manderson, Hamilton’s attorney, said in an e-mail. “Instead of addressing the truth, they viciously attack Tyler’s character and his motives. How many times can Fabiani say ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’ and expect to be taken seriously? At some point they will have to address the truth.”
Jeff Novitzky, who led the investigation that ensnared Bonds and Jones and is now a Food and Drug Administration investigator, is among the federal agents that Hamilton spoke to about doping on the U.S. Postal team, Manderson said.
Lawyers for former San Francisco outfielder Bonds, indicted in 2007 for allegedly lying about taking steroids, said former associates who testified against him at his perjury trial were motivated by greed and weren’t credible. Bonds denied knowingly taking steroids.
Cris Arguedas, an attorney for Bonds, told jurors in federal court in San Francisco in March that former Bonds mistress Kimberly Bell, who testified that Bonds told her he took steroids, planned to write a “humiliating” book about the slugger so she could make money and “get rich.” Bell testified that the book, which was never written, was supposed to be about what went wrong in their relationship.
Bonds was convicted April 13 of obstructing a federal grand jury investigation of steroid use by professional athletes. Jurors couldn’t reach unanimous verdicts on three perjury counts against Bonds, whose lawyers have said they will seek to overturn the verdict. Federal prosecutors haven’t disclosed whether they plan to retry Bonds.
Colorado Rockies player Jason Giambi and several other baseball players testified with immunity before a grand jury about obtaining steroids and testified for the government at Bonds’s trial.
In 2004, the founder of a Burlingame, California, laboratory at the center of a federal steroids probe went on ABC’s 20/20 news show and said he provided Olympic champion Marion Jones with banned drugs. Jones’s attorney, Richard Nichols, said the sprinter “never, ever used performance- enhancing drugs.” The lab’s founder, Victor Conte, who was under indictment at the time for steroids distribution, was “simply not credible,” Nichols said. Conte served four months in prison after pleading guilty in 2005.
In 2007, Jones pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and admitted taking steroids before the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. She told U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas that her former coach, Trevor Graham, gave her steroids and that she lied about it to federal agents in a 2003 interview.
She was stripped of her record five medals and in 2008 was sentenced to six months in prison.
Graham was convicted that same year by a jury in San Francisco of lying to federal agents about his last contact with a steroids supplier. He was sentenced to one year of home confinement and five years of probation.
Roger Clemens, a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, was indicted last year on charges he lied to a U.S. Congressional committee in denying he used steroids and human growth hormone to boost his performance. Brian McNamee, his former trainer, had told the same committee that he injected the pitcher with the substances. Clemens has repeatedly denied taking steroids. His trial is scheduled to begin July 6 in Washington.
Stubblefield, who played defensive tackle from 1993 to 2003 for the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders, pleaded guilty in 2008 to lying about taking banned muscle-building drugs. Prosecutors said he lied to Novitzky, then an Internal Revenue Service agent, about taking banned substances.
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