Former Rock Racing team owner Michael Ball could hold a clue to the direction of the US Food and Drug Administration probe into Lance Armstrong, another twist in this tale of alleged sporting fraud.
It's been revealed that authorities served a warrant on Ball's luxury apartment earlier this year, months before Floyd Landis' allegations of doping practices within the US Postal team emerged.
The NY Daily News reports that Ball was the target of investigators before Landis' email to USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson became public due to the history of some of his team's riders. Of particular interest to authorities have been Rashaan Bahati and Tyler Hamilton, two men who enjoyed success with the squad.
The pair ended their association with the team in different ways - Bahati fell out of favour with Ball and Hamilton returned a positive doping test then subsequently received an eight-year ban and retired from the sport. Landis was on the list of riders Ball sought to hire, although the partnership never eventuated as financial issues forced the Rock Racing team to downsize before it eventually became defunct.
Landis' revelations of alleged doping practices within the US Postal team emerged during the Amgen Tour of California in May this year, although the Daily News has ascertained through a source close to the investigation that, "Novitzky was looking at Michael Ball long before Floyd met with Novitzky or even with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency."
Earlier this year Landis rode for the Bahati Foundation squad - established by the former Rock Racing rider - before his email to Johnson was published and he was subsequently dismissed from the squad.
Armstrong has strenuously and continuously denied all the allegations, maintaining that he never doped whilst also questioning Landis' credibility, which has formed the backbone of his argument in light of these revelations from his former teammate.
Meanwhile, Bahati has refused to comment on the situation, dealing instead with the troubles of his team - in recent weeks it's been revealed that the sprinter's outfit has ceased to operate, although he claims it's undergoing a "reorganisation".
Hamilton, another former Armstrong teammate, has not spoken publicly about his role in the investigation and will testify to Novitzky, at least one prosecutor, up to 23 grand jurors and a court reporter, according to the Daily News. The details and outcome of his testimony will be kept secret until such time that an indictment is issued.
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