Lance Armstrong threatened to make Tyler Hamilton’s life a “living hell” in the law courts when the two met unexpectedly in a restaurant last weekend, ESPN's Bonnie Ford has reported. And Hamilton’s lawyers who alleged the ‘aggressive contact’ at the impromptu meeting, reported the incident to federal authorities who will decide if it constitutes ‘witness tampering’.
If the authorities agree, and Armstrong is eventually hauled before court to face charges he was at the centre of a systematic doping operation on the US Postal Service squad between 1999 and 2004, it could mean that prosecutors can include evidence in the case against the Texan right up to the present day. Armstrong has always denied doping.
According to ESPN which reported the story, Hamilton’s lawyer, Chris Manderson, said because Hamilton had testified to a federal grand jury investigating fraud and cheating on US Postal, Hamilton could be a crucial witness. Any contact between defendant and witness – especially if it was aggressive – had to be reported to the authorities he said.
Manderson said: “Lance Armstrong is a possible defendant in an investigation that's been widely reported, and Tyler is a probable witness. When there's any contact, especially aggressive contact, we as lawyers have a duty to inform the authorities. ... What they will do with it, I don't know."
The unexpected meeting happened three weeks after Hamilton appeared on the CBS programme '60 Minutes' on May 22, in which he went public with allegations he saw Armstrong inject EPO and try to cover up a failed dope test at the Tour de Suisse in 2001.
According to Hamilton’s version of events at the restaurant, Armstrong repeatedly asked Hamilton how much he had been paid to appear on '60 Minutes' and that the Texan’s legal team will "(expletive) destroy you," "tear you apart on the witness stand," and "make your life a living (expletive) hell."
According to former federal prosecutor, Richard J. Cutler, if the incident was reported accurately, the altercation could be a ‘game-changer’ and could allow the federal prosecuting authorities to extend the deadline for investigating the US Postal case.
Cutler said "If I were the prosecutor, my investigator would be going to talk to Hamilton. This, to me, is a game-changer," adding that witness tampering could adjust the statute of limitations issues prosecutors might be facing by extending the timeline forward to the present day.
However co-owner of the upmarket Cache Cache restaurant where the run-in happened and a friend of Armstrong, Jodi Larner, had a different version of events. She said the impromptu meeting was very placid.
“It was not combative. It was not hostile... There were no threats. There were very few words exchanged. There was no scene made," she said.
Armstrong’s lawyer spokesman Mark Fabiani declined to comment to ESPN.
US Federal authorities led By Jeff Novitzky are currently investigating whether public funds were used to finance systematic doping in the Armstrong’s US Postal Service team and Hamilton could be a key witness in any trial