Former Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong expressed confidence that he will be cleared well before any charges are filed in a federal investigation into the old U.S. Postal Service team and confirmed that he has hired one of the country’s best criminal-defense firms to protect his rights in the matter.
Armstrong has enlisted the services of Los Angeles-based criminal-defense lawyer Bryan D. Daly, a former federal prosecutor and partner at the firm Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton.
Armstrong said the decision to hire Daly only made sense given the scope of the investigation.
“I have nothing … again, this is the United States of America,” Armstrong told Agence France Presse. “You can’t prosecute somebody for something they didn’t do — normally. But along the way, you’ve got to protect yourself.”
Armstrong went on to suggest that anybody who may be called to give testimony should do likewise.
“You know, I think anybody involved should have legal protection, and know their rights and know what’s truly best for them,” he added.
“It’s safe to say that I will have representation here, just to be safe.”
Federal authorities are continuing to interview riders and other witnesses in an investigation into doping allegations leveled by Floyd Landis against his former teammates, including Armstrong.
Earlier this week, another Armstrong attorney Tim Herman voiced concerns over the “media blitz” triggered by alleged leaks in the case.
In a letter to assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Miller, obtained earlier this week by The Associated Press, Herman expressed concern that the timing of the investigation was unfair given that Armstrong was “in the middle of his final Tour de France.”
Federal authorities, including Food and Drug Administration Criminal Division investigator Jeff Novitzky, were apparently unswayed by Herman’s objections and have been issuing grand jury subpoenas in the case. Novitzky declined to comment when contacted by VeloNews on Thursday. Miller has yet to respond to an email request for an interview.
California attorney Chris Manderson, who represents former U.S. Postal and Phonak rider Tyler Hamilton, did confirm that federal authorities had contacted his client.
“I have been speaking with Novitzky and Miller,” Manderson told VeloNews. “I expect that Tyler will be cooperating.”
Manderson represented Hamilton in the rider’s 2009 case, involving his admitted use of DHEA. Hamilton had already served a two-year suspension for homologous blood doping in 2004. Hamilton continues to deny the blood doping charge, but the second violation resulted in his being issued an eight-year ban from involvement in the sport.
In his letter to Miller, Herman particularly objected to a series of reports that have appeared in The New York Times and New York Daily News that included information about grand jury subpoenas and witnesses that had already been contacted by investigators.
“It is egregiously unfair and frustrating for New York reporters to have far more knowledge about this matter than Mr. Armstrong or his attorney,” Herman said.
The investigation was triggered in April when Landis admitted to having doped throughout his career and alleged that he had learned methods to avoid detection from Armstrong when the two were teammates on U.S. Postal. Armstrong has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Former riders and attorneys who have been in contact with federal authorities said investigators are focusing much of their attention on possible charges involving the misuse of public funds during the period that Armstrong’s team was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service. While the Postal Service is now a self-supporting corporation, its funds are still considered to be “public” dollars. Misuse of public funds, particularly if they were used in the commission of a crime — including the illegal purchase and distribution of prescription drugs — could result in fraud charges being filed.
While such a case would largely involve the management of the team, rather than individual riders, Armstrong is considered a target because of his role in the ownership of the team. Armstrong recently characterized his role in Tailwind Sports — the management firm that operated the Postal and Discovery Channel teams — as minimal, describing himself as “a rider on the team.”
Both Miller and Novitzky were instrumental in the federal investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO), which was found to have developed a distributed a range of performance-enhancing drugs. Among those convicted of lying to the grand jury weighing charges in the BALCO case were former Olympic track and field star Marion Jones and former track cyclist Tammy Thomas.