US doping inquiry goes to France

2010-11-17 09:26

Lyon – US investigators have interviewed French anti-doping officials at Interpol headquarters as part of a probe into allegations of drug use by cyclists.

The investigation shifted its focus to France, with an American delegation seeking information from police officials and the national anti-doping agency (AFLD) that has stored some of Lance Armstrong’s samples from the Tour de France. Armstrong won cycling’s storied race seven consecutive times – from 1999 to 2005.

Francoise Lasne, director of the AFLD lab, and testing director Jean-Pierre Verdy were heard as witnesses yesterday at Interpol, said an official with knowledge of the meeting. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly on the case.

Interpol, the international police agency, is acting as intermediary between the US and French officials.

The US probe is being conducted by US Food and Drug Administration agent Jeff Novitzky and others.

The French sports daily L’Equipe reported in 2005 that Armstrong’s samples from 1999 contained traces of the banned performance enhancer EPO after being retested in 2004.

An investigator mandated by cycling’s international governing body later cleared Armstrong.

US federal prosecutors have been looking at cheating in cycling for months, aided by Novitzky, who played a key role in the Balco scandal that implicated athletes such as Barry Bonds and Marion Jones, and opened a window into the methods used to dope.

Armstrong became a more important figure in the probe recently after disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for failing a doping test, dropped long-standing denials and acknowledged he used performance-enhancing drugs.

In doing so, he accused Armstrong and others of systematic drug use.

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