Lance Armstrong Hires Famous S.F. Attorney, New USPS Sponsorship Details Emerge

Categories: Sports
notabouthebike.jpg
It's all about who owned what and when.
​Lance Armstrong has added two more San Francisco attorneys to his defense team to help ward off possible charges that he was doping while cycling the Tour de France. 

Additionally, SF Weekly has more details on the 1996-2004 U.S. Postal Service cycling team sponsorship deal possibly key to an ongoing federal investigation.

John Keker, the San Francisco attorney who prosecuted Oliver North in the Iran-Contra affair, repeated Armstrong's claims that he shouldn't be investigated or prosecuted because he is an anticancer hero, according to KTVU.  Armstrong's lawyers also say that the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team misdeeds are too old to matter. Armstrong himself strongly denies ever doping.

"That the government is spending tax money investigating long ago bike races in Europe is an outrage." said Keker, who is also working with San Francisco attorney Elliot Peters on Armstrong's case. Keker also complained about purported grand jury leaks which implicated Armstrong's team was involved with systematic doping. 

A Los Angeles federal grand jury has been empaneled for months to hear evidence of allegations that Armstrong and his teammates doped -- and tidbits of that information have come from unnamed, seemingly knowledgeable sources.

However, despite detailed investigations revealed on 60 Minutes this week, as well as other media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated, it's still unclear whether Armstrong will face criminal or civil charges, and if so what kind of charges they would be.

In 2005, SF Weekly described how the U.S. Postal Service Team management could face legal peril if they allowed riders to dope. More recently, multiple news stories have cited unnamed sources saying federal officials are targeting team officials -- not riders. What could be central to any prosecution is contracts between the USPS, which is a government agency, and team officials, who agreed that millions of dollars in government sponsorship could be stopped if somehow management new about and covered up doping.

A secret violation of that agreement could constitute as fraud.

On Tuesday, we told readers about the 60 Minutes piece aired Sunday. Elements of the broadcast seemed to point toward Tailwind Sports -- a cycling team management company launched in San Francisco during the 1990's by local financier Thomas Weisel. Could Weisel, a legend in the local tech financing business, get wrapped up in this?

Since then, we've found more documents that seem to suggest Weisel's involvement with the company running the team waned over the years, making for a blurry picture of who really owned and operated the team. It turns out that establishing the seemingly simple matter of identifying "team management" is more complicated that you might think.

In 2000, records obtained by ESPN show team management was barred from permitting doping as far back as 2000. In that document, "team management" was identified as S.F. financier Thomas Weisel, 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Gorski, and Dan Osipow, who  has recently held a job helping manage U.C. Berkeley's sports properties. To make matters even more complicated, various press accounts during the past year have made conflicting statements about whether Armstrong himself had owned the team at some point.

Armstrong issued a vague statement last July, saying he was only a minority owner of Tailwind Sports, and primarily served as a rider-employee. After that, stories appeared indicating he had a given different version of that statement under oath.

In 2005, the USPS Team added an additional sponsor for its European campaign -- Belgian flooring company Berry Floor. However, the company didn't make agreed-upon payments, Tailwind attorneys alleged in a 2006 complaint.

I'll spare you the details of who said what about Berry Floor's purported reneging. What's relevant in 2011 are answers to the question: With whom, precisely, did Berry Floor cut its sponsorship deal? The answer could also provide clues to who, theoretically, might have been in a position to defraud the U.S. Postal Service.

A copy of the 2005 Berry-Floor/Tailwind sponsorship agreement links Tailwind Sports to Capital Sports and Entertainment, the same company that ran Armstrong's business and charitable enterprises. According to the contract:

"All notices and payment under this Agreement are effective upon receipt if hand delivered or sent by overnight courier or by certified mail, return receipt requested to the following address: Tailwind Sports Corp. c/o Capital Sports & Entertainment, Inc. 98 San Jacinto Suite 430 Austin, Texas 78701 Attn: Bill Stapleton or Bart Knaggs." 

In Fact, Knaggs and Stapleton have long handled Armstrong's myriad business and nonprofit activities under the banner of Capital Sports and Entertainment. According to that company's Web site:

Lance met with CSE founders Bill Stapleton and Bart Knaggs and formed a small foundation to fight the disease.

Armstrong himself was also a signatory to the Berry Floor sponsorship agreement, which included sections describing how the Belgian company could use the Texan cyclist's name and image.

Judging from documents filed in the 2005 lawsuit, Armstrong had business, personal, and legal connections to the people and businesses running the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team. Will these connections surface again as part of the current federal doping investigation?

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whatever_dude
whatever_dude

"That the government is spending tax money investigating long ago bike races in Europe is an outrage".

I'm sick of this pathetic "defense". Harness Tea Party tax-phobia to create support for fraud against taxpayers? Lame, lame, lame.

The government is spending tax money investigating fraud that netted millions of dollars to the culprits. That's exactly the kind of thing they SHOULD be looking into. I'd like to see more of it, especially in the financial sector.

toktok
toktok

This is NOT about tax dollars.  The Postal service is NOT the government. This articel is full of inaccuracies about USPS.  Get a web browser or something and google USPS, budget, congress. Thee you will finnd that the only government money that goes to USPS is about $150M that is used to subsidize mailings for blind people.  Your POSTAGE pays for USPS, and the advertizers that pay to fill your mail box with advertizements. And indirectly the advertizers in the magazines you get in the mail at under cost.

Ken
Ken

The USPS is a Federal agency. Regardless of where the sponsorship money came from, if you are defrauding the USPS, you are defrauding the Federal government, and that's why Novitzky and the Feds got involved. It's not to bust riders who were doping for doping - they couldn't care less about that, and they couldn't care less if Armstrong was one of those doping - the investigation is to find out whose money was being spent to buy PEDs. If it was USPS money, then it's defrauding a Federal agency, and that, as you can imagine, is a pretty serious crime.

whatever_dude
whatever_dude

Couldn't agree more with Ken. Maybe I misinterpreted toktok's first reply. I thought he was defending the ridiculous "waste of taxpayer money" non-argument that Armstrong's lawyers are making. 

There seems to be two sources of "taxpayer money" that keep getting confused in this discussion: USPS funds, and Novitsky's budget. Which money the USPS used to finance the cycling team has zero to do with any of this.

Many gov. entities generate most of their operating funds...just like USPS, as you point out. Where the money comes from has no impact on the fact that they are a gov. entity--same rules.

whatever_dude
whatever_dude

So I guess it's okay if it's only a little taxpayer money, then?

Still ultra-lame.

toktok
toktok

"Fraud is fraud, the defense that the investigation is a waste of taxpayer money is absurd."It is breach of contract terms. If USPS feel that the business partner has breached the contract, it is a contract dispute. Waste of taxpayer money is not a defense argument. If it was, all criminal cases would be waste of taxpayer money. What is bogus here, is that this is about protecting tax payer money because the government was defrauded.  The taxpayer argument is completely bogus both as a defense and as a justification for  prosecuting.  If you cannot argue your case on the merits, I  say you have no case to  argue.

whatever_dude
whatever_dude

Um, I don't think we disagree on this...learn to read English. Fraud is fraud, the defense that the investigation is a waste of taxpayer money is absurd.

toktok
toktok

learn to read english. The subsidies are for blind people, not for sponsorships. There is no taxpayer money in this case. Go after Lance for doping, as that is cheating in sports, but forget about the bogus taxpayer money argument. That argument is only used to justify why it's OK to spend taxpayer money for the investigation of an old case, but it is disingenious. I think Lance doped, and I think it is fair to prosecute him for it, but the taxpayer argument is completely  bogus. Oil companies and the agro industry receive 100 times as much subsidies as USPS does. And those subsidies are not even earmarked for blind people. Maybe if Lance had been riding for Chevron, there would be a point.   If you cannot argue the merits of your case based on facts,  why bother.

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