Armstrong victim of "character assassination"

Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) at the end of the Tour Down Under.

Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) at the end of the Tour Down Under. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Lance Armstrong's newly appointed legal team has filed a motion at the US District Court in Los Angeles claiming that the seven-time Tour de France champion has been the victim of "character assassination". The charge stems from alleged leaks from the federal grand jury investigation into allegations that Armstrong was involved in organized doping during his pro cycling career.

According to the respected Politico news website in the US, Armstrong's legal team, headed by John W. Keker, contends that leaks about Armstrong had "the obvious intent of legitimizing the government's investigation of a national hero, best known for his role in the fight against cancer." The motion suggests that information from the Armstrong investigation has been leaked to the New York Times, Sports Illustrated and 60 Minutes. The motion states that, due to the leaks, "even if exonerated and never charged, Armstrong's reputation will have been severely damaged".

The 20-page motion, which was filed last Thursday, also states: "Each leak has been designed to propagate public support for this investigation by smearing Armstrong and tarnishing his reputation. These circumstances are crying out for an investigation."

The motion suggests that "the current pattern of leaks is eerily reminiscent" of practices that occurred when Jeff Novitzky, who is heading the federal grand jury probe, was investigating leading baseball players suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs. The motion details: "[T]he leading government advocate for the Armstrong investigation, Novitzky, was recently connected to an investigation riddled with leaks to the same reporters involved in this case, and has a documented history of over-reaching and disregarding individual's [sic] privacy rights."

The motion adds: "Over the past year, purported details of a grand jury investigation relating to Armstrong and professional cycling races in Europe have been deliberately leaked to the media on dozens of occasions... The leaks have rendered what should have been a closed investigation into a field day for reporters with access to the leaks, and an easy forum for whoever seeks to damage Armstrong's reputation."

Armstrong's legal team wants a judge to order an inquiry into potential prosecutorial or investigator misconduct.

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).