Wall Street Journal Planning Lance Armstrong Doping Bombshell

Categories: Crime, Media, Sports
blood brothers.jpg
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The Wall Street Journal, which for a week has been rumored to be preparing a Game of Shadows-style story detailing doping allegations against seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, announced in Friday's paper that it plans to release just such an article as the tour kicks off Saturday.

Food and Drug Administration special investigator Jeff Novitzky, famed for his work on the Barry Bonds BALCO case, is investigating charges leveled by disgraced former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis claiming the the duo's U.S. Postal Service-sponsored cycling team doped during the years of Armstrong's Tour wins. Thursday the Associated Press quoted Armstrong saying the accusations don't faze him.

At the heart of the Novitzky investigation is the question of whether U.S. government sponsorship funds were somehow tied up in doping practices undertaken with the knowledge of team managers. From 1996 to 2004 The Postal Service sponsored a team owned by San Francisco financier Thomas Weisel, through a San Francisco firm called Tailwind Sports.

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In 2005 SF Weekly published stories examining the legal peril Weisel faced in the event of credible doping allegations involving his teams:

Sponsorship and bonus-payment agreements entered into by Weisel-controlled companies created a situation in which performance-enhancing drug use could theoretically be construed as a form of financial fraud, defined here as a situation in which a party misrepresents the truth in order to obtain money. If such a definition were ever to hold up in court, it could open a floodgate of legal questions.

Because Tailwind Sports received tens of millions of dollars in U.S. Postal Service sponsorship money, doping allegations could theoretically be of particular interest to the government -- a point SF Weekly brought up back in 2005 as well. On June 26 The New York Times reported that federal prosecutors in the Bay Area are working closely with Novitzky, precisely because of the San Francisco Tailwind Sports connection:

Prosecutors from the United States attorney's office for the Northern District of California, which is based in the Bay Area, have worked closely with Novitzky, and would have jurisdiction to investigate the case because Tailwind Sports was based in San Francisco. The investor Thom Weisel, of the investment banking firm Thomas Weisel Partners Group, was the founder and chairman of Tailwind Sports. Armstrong eventually became a co-owner.

Saturday's Wall Street Journal story appears poised to ratchet up the heat even further, as it is scheduled to appear just as Armstrong begins an attempt to win an unprecedented eighth Tour de France. The article is based on extensive interviews with Landis, according to the teaser appearing on page A-9 of today's Journal:

BLOOD BROTHERS Pro cyclist Floyd Landis saw his career and personal life all but destroyed after a failed drug test cost him his 2006 Tour de France crown. Now, Mr. Landis gives The Wall Street Journal an exclusive tour through what he and others say was a culture of systematic doping in the sport.

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