The American investigation into accusations of systematic doping in the U.S. Postal Service team is at an advanced stage, according to European participants in talks involving the U.S. delegation at Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France, during the week.
Special agent Jeff Novitzky of the FDA is leading the American investigation and sources have intimated to AP that his delegation was not in Europe looking to gather new evidence, but rather was seeking to obtain specific information to support what it had already uncovered in the United States.
“He [Novitzky] is going through all of Europe’s trash cans. And sometimes you find things in a trash can,” one police officer told AP. “They need supplemental proof to back up everything they have gathered. As we say in our jargon, they have some marbles to play with.”
Another participant underlined the seriousness of the American delegation. “This is no joke,” he said. “This is serious, this is hard-nose. It was not a sightseeing trip.”
At least six American officials were present in Lyon this week, including Novitzky, U.S. federal prosecutor Doug Miller, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart and FBI special agent Olivier Faraole.
The U.S. party is understood to have met with officials from Italy, France and Belgium. Novitzky and his colleagues were in Lyon for two days and are believed to have met with each European delegation separately. Similar meetings had been held in late July.
Public prosecutor Benedetto Roberti led the four-man Italian delegation, and he confirmed that he met with the Americans to discuss the coordination of their investigations into doping.
“We realized that we have reciprocal interest in this fight, and hopefully time will confirm that,” Roberti told AP. “We need to exchange information, because this phenomenon can’t be beaten alone. Everyone needs to contribute. This battle can’t be won in the media.”
Roberti also confirmed to AP that the raid of Yaroslav Popovych’s home in Tuscany last week was carried out under his orders. The RadioShack rider had already testified before a grand jury in Los Angeles on November 3 as part of a United States investigation into doping in cycling, centred on the U.S. Postal Service team.
Armstrong camp decries “money-wasting” trip
Lance Armstrong’s spokesman Mark Fabiani responded to news of the U.S. investigators' talks with their Italian and French counterparts by denouncing their presence in Europe as a waste of money.
“American taxpayer money is being squandered on a European trip for FDA investigators to dredge up old allegations that have already been thoroughly examined and completely discredited,” Fabiani said. “All of Lance’s samples were clean when they were first provided and tested, and no amount of tax-money-wasting European meetings can change that fundamental fact.”
Armstrong was among the riders named by Floyd Landis in his accusations of systematic doping at the U.S. Postal Service team. The allegations were made public when Landis confessed to doping in May of this year.
However, a former federal prosecutor with extensive knowledge of grand jury procedure has said that the nature of the U.S. delegation’s trip to France is indicative of the seriousness with which the United States government is treating the matter.
“The Justice Department would not ordinarily spend the type of time and money without an extreme seriousness of purpose,” Mathew Rosengart told AP. “It just shows they’re turning over every rock looking for every piece of evidence.”