February 22, 2013

US joins lawsuit against Lance Armstrong

The Associated Press

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In this June 14, 2003 file photo, U.S. Postal Service leader Lance Armstrong puts on the overall leader's yellow jersey after the 6th stage of the 55th Criterium du Dauphine Libere cycling race between Challes Les Eaux and Briancon, French Alps. Lawyers for Armstrong say the Justice Department has joined a lawsuit against the cyclist. The lawsuit alleges the former Tour de France champion concealed his use of performance-enhancing drugs for over a decade and defrauded his long-time sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service. (AP Photo/Patrick Gardin, File)

In his 2010 complaint, which was made public Friday, Landis gave a detailed account of what he alleged had been widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs by Armstrong and assistance from Bruyneel and others to carry out the drug use.

During the 2002 Tour de France, Landis and Armstrong lay on opposite sides of a bed to receive re-infusions of a half-liter of blood each, Landis' complaint said. During the banned procedure, Bruyneel sat in a chair watching and commented on how well the two were going to do in a time trial the following day, according to Landis.

In Spain, Landis went to Armstrong's apartment, where Landis met Italian physician Michele Ferrari, who drew half a liter of blood and placed it in a refrigerator. Armstrong then asked Landis to stay in the apartment to check the temperature of the blood each day while Armstrong went away for a few weeks to train.

In 2003, the withdrawal of two units of blood had left Landis in need of EPO to stimulate the production of red blood cells. Landis went to Armstrong's apartment, where Armstrong handed him a box of EPO, which Landis then used intravenously for several weeks during training for the Vuelta, a road race in Spain.

In 2004 for the Tour de France , Armstrong, Landis and seven teammates took blood transfusions on the team bus on a ride from the finish of one stage of the race to the hotel. To conduct the transfusions, the bus driver pulled over to the side of a remote mountain road for an hour, feigning engine trouble.

Armstrong was the subject of a two-year federal grand jury investigation that the Justice Department dropped a year ago without an indictment.

Throughout his career, Armstrong always denied drug use, but he confessed to having done so in an interview last month.

In October, USADA released a report that included affidavits from 11 of Armstrong's former teammates. These affidavits detailed how the teammates were supplied with EPO — a banned hormone that increases oxygen-carrying red blood cells to boost endurance, particularly in thin mountain air — by Armstrong and saw him inject, and how they were pressured to dope and bullied by Armstrong and Bruyneel. The cycling world's governing body then took away from Armstrong the seven Tour de France titles he won from 1999 to 2005.

Armstrong and USADA officials talked on and off over a couple of months about the terms under which the cyclist might sit down for a long interview to tell all he knows about doping in cycling, but Armstrong finally announced he would not cooperate.

A person familiar with discussions between Armstrong and USADA, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private, said among the topics was how much protection USADA could provide Armstrong in the whistle-blower case and against possible criminal action. The cyclist and his attorneys were not satisfied with USADA's offer, the person said.

Commenting Wednesday on Armstrong's refusal to talk, Tygart said that, "over the last few weeks he has led us to believe that he wanted to come in and assist USADA but was worried of potential criminal and civil liability if he did so."

If the Justice Department ends up taking the Landis whistle-blower case all the way to trial, a key issue is likely to be whether the U.S. Postal Service — the Armstrong team's sponsor — suffered financial harm from the drug scandal.

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