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July 11, 2010

Cycling's Other Shoe About to Drop

The news in cycling isn't from VeloNews or CyclingNews as much as from the Wall Street Journal: U.S. Casts Wider Net in Probe of Cycling. (email reg. req'd). It's an interesting read. Key hook:
The U.S. criminal investigation, which is being led by the Food and Drug Administration, isn't aimed at prosecuting rank-and-file riders who used performance-enhancing drugs during their careers, according to people familiar with the investigation. Rather, it is designed to potentially bring charges against any team leaders and team directors who may have facilitated or encouraged doping by their riders.

FDA special agent Jeff Novitzky, the lead investigator, didn't return calls seeking comment.
Who is Jeff Novitzky, you ask? Jeff Novitzky is an agent for the Food and Drug Administration. Before April 2008 he was a special agent for the Internal Revenue Service who investigated the use of steroids in professional sports for over five years. His investigations have concerned Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) and Kirk Radomski.

Assisting Novitzky is assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Miller, who works in the Major Frauds Section of the federal prosecutor's office in Los Angeles. Miller also had a role in the BALCO investigation.

The lead investigator is an IRS agent seconded to the FDA, and his lieutenant is a federal prosecutor. That's serious. That might lead to an endgame similar to Al Capone being sent to prison on tax evasion charges. Interesting questions include:
  • Did teams pay for doping programs with slushfunds that illegally avoided federal taxes?
  • Did the US Postal Team misuse federal funds?
In the end, perhaps the development of the Tour de France's visibility in the United States will result in its undoing.

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