Hamilton talking with investigators

Updated: July 22, 2010, 3:49 AM ET
By Bonnie D. Ford and T.J. Quinn | ESPN.com

A lawyer representing Lance Armstrong's former teammate Tyler Hamilton confirmed that he is in discussions with federal prosecutors investigating possible doping and fraud charges against Armstrong and cycling team officials.

Chris Manderson told ESPN.com that he is trying to "work out ground rules and arrange a situation where Hamilton can speak confidentially and give them the information they need." He declined to say whether Hamilton had received a subpoena to testify before a grand jury empaneled in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Hamilton rode alongside Armstrong at U.S. Postal Service in his first three Tour victories before moving on to lead two European-based teams. Shortly after winning the Olympic time-trial gold medal in 2004, he tested positive for a banned transfusion. Hamilton unsuccessfully challenged the test result and eventually served a two-year suspension. He retired last year after admitting he knowingly took a supplement that contained the banned steroid DHEA and also revealed that he had long suffered from clinical depression.

Hamilton is one of a number of former Armstrong teammates and team staff members to have had contact with investigators led by agent Jeff Novitzky of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and supported by assistant U.S. attorney Doug Miller, who both played key roles in the BALCO steroids case.

Los Angeles-based lawyer Zia Modabber confirmed he has spoken to Novitzky concerning his client, reigning U.S. road cycling champion George Hincapie, who rode with Armstrong in all seven of his Tour de France victories. Modabber would not discuss any other details about his client or the case. Hincapie and Armstrong are currently racing in the Tour de France, which ends Sunday in Paris.

The probe was triggered last spring when Floyd Landis went public with allegations of organized doping on the U.S. Postal Service team from 2002-04 when he was one of Armstrong's support riders. Landis' 2006 Tour title, won while riding for the Switzerland-based Phonak team, was stripped following a doping conviction. In May, he elected to reverse years of denial and admit that he had used performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career.

Armstrong and other team officials have vehemently denied all of Landis' accounts.

The only subpoena made public by its recipient thus far is the one served on three-time Tour de France winner and longtime Armstrong adversary Greg LeMond, who has been asked to produce documents related to his breach of contract case against the Trek Bicycle Corporation by July 30.

Lawyer Mark Handfelt, a partner in the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati firm that represented LeMond in the Trek case and continues to represent him, told ESPN.com in an e-mail Wednesday that the subpoena is for documents only and does not compel LeMond's presence or testimony.

Although Armstrong was not named in the lawsuit, LeMond contended he influenced Trek to undermine sales of and eventually terminate LeMond's signature line of bikes out of spite after LeMond voiced skepticism that Armstrong was racing clean. Trek countersued, maintaining that LeMond's own actions were responsible for the commercial demise of the line.

The case was settled out of court early this year, and although terms remain confidential, the two sides disclosed that Trek had made a six-figure contribution to a foundation supported by LeMond. Armstrong was not deposed in the case. His ex-wife, Kristin, was questioned under oath but said she was not familiar with details of Armstrong's business dealings and declined to answer questions about whether he had used performance-enhancing drugs.

Landis told ESPN.com that he had not received a subpoena but would not hesitate to tell a grand jury what he laid out in detail to both Novitzky and U.S. anti-doping officials in lengthy interviews last spring. He said he realized his credibility will always be an issue because of his past dishonesty. But Landis added that he hoped the fact that he offered information to authorities voluntarily and did not ask for immunity from prosecution would help convince people he is now telling the truth.

Several sources familiar with the case said it is unlikely that riders who cooperate with the investigation would be prosecuted for any past use of performance-enhancing drugs.

A source with knowledge of the government's case said prosecutors are working to establish whether Armstrong was an owner and operator of the team or whether he was, as he told reporters at the Tour last week, merely an employee. That distinction could help determine whether Armstrong would be a primary target if there is enough evidence for a case to go forward.

If the BALCO investigation was conducted like a classic drug case, with drug users (the athletes) turning in dealers (like Barry Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson) and small dealers turning in larger ones (like BALCO's Victor Conte), this investigation is more like a white-collar, corporate investigation, the source said.

The source said investigators have been looking for bank records, tax records, wire transfers and any financial documentation, along with internal memos, to see who was making money and who might have been making potentially criminal decisions. Investigators have interviewed a number of cooperating witnesses, both riders and other employees, about the corporate hierarchy of the U.S. Postal team.

Testimony given by Armstrong and others in a 2005 lawsuit brought against SCA Promotions by Armstrong and Tailwind Sports, the company that operated the Postal team for several years, is also being scrutinized. The lawsuit, in which Armstrong sued the company for refusing to pay a promised $5 million bonus after his record sixth Tour win because of doping allegations, went to arbitration but was settled in Armstrong's favor before the panel ruled.

"Part of the preliminary investigation is trying to determine up from down. You don't want to give them a misdemeanor and then find out later that, oops, he was actually a shot caller and then you're screwed," the source said. "You want to get the structure."

Armstrong has hired a criminal defense attorney to represent him. Bryan D. Daly is a former federal prosecutor based in Los Angeles and partner at the firm Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton. His hiring was first reported by The Daily Journal, a legal trade publication.

Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. T.J. Quinn is an investigative reporter for ESPN and ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Bonnie D. Ford

Enterprise and Olympic Sports
Bonnie D. Ford is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
T.J. Quinn joined ESPN in November 2007 as an investigative reporter for ESPN's Enterprise Unit, which is charged with developing long-form, investigative features to be presented across multiple platforms.

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