World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) director general David Howman believes the fraud case involving Floyd Landis' allegations against Lance Armstrong and several prominent American cycling figures could be "fruitful" but will take time.
Howman made the comments in a New York Times article published Monday analysing the implications of the case - surrounding Armstrong's alleged doping practices whilst riding for US Postal - on this year's Tour de France.
"I think we are very optimistic that this inquiry will be a fruitful one," Howman told the newspaper. "But this is going to take some time because we're not really talking about a simple antidoping case here.
"Remember the Balco case, how long that took? Well, we could be still talking about this one in 2016," he added.
The Balco case involved a number of high-profile US track and field athletes, American football and baseball players who were found to have bought and used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, leading to the jailing of Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative founder Victor Conte and the 'forced' retirement of Olympic runners Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.
Jeff Novitzky, who led the Balco investigation, is in charge of this latest fraud case, trying to determine whether Armstrong, US Postal owners, managers and teammates conspired to defraud sponsors by doping to improve performances and hence the likelihood of securing better results and the possible monetary benefits of this.
Authorities are seeking to determine whether money from headline sponsor US Postal Service was used to buy performance-enhancing drugs during its time of sponsorship between 1996 and 2004.
Landis' allegations outline systematic doping within the US Postal team, with which Armstrong won all seven of his Tour de France titles (albeit known as Team Discovery Channel during 2005).
Landis also implicated former US Postal riders Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie and David Zabriskie among others in his statement, which was released during the Amgen Tour of California in May and before which he had already begun co-operating with US federal investigators.
In addition to this trio, Landis alleged that current BMC Racing co-owner (and former USA Cycling President) Jim Ochowicz plus former Phonak owner (now the other BMC Racing co-owner) Andy Rihs knew of Landis' own doping practices during the 2006 Tour de France; a charge Ochowicz vehemently denied when asked by the Times about its accuracy.
"It has no effect on me whatsoever," he said, adding, "The authorities should absolutely stop it," in reference to cheating in the sport. "But I have no clue what went on. I wasn't a part of it."
Another team manager, Garmin-Transitions' Jonathan Vaughters, was contacted by the Times and added his spin on the situation, saying that the discussion and dissection of past events can only lead to better outcomes for the sport, despite the scandal surrounding it in the short-term.
"Quite frankly, I think the most doping in the sport happened during one of the years where there were no scandals and everybody thought everything was hunky-dory," he said. "When there's a scandal, that's actually when things are being solved."
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