In his email, Floyd Landis admitted doping between 2002 and 2006. For three of those years he rode for a team sponsored by the United States Postal Service, which is an agency of the United States government.
That could be the most significant fact of all, as it is the one that will take the investigation out of the hands of the sports authorities and into the remit of federal investigators in the United States.
There has been a lot of speculation that this case will hit the buffers because of a lack of proof and a tightening of cycling’s rule of omerta which makes it almost impossible for individuals to tell the authorities what they know for fear of being abandoned to their fate.
However, once federal investigators start asking questions, the tongues of anyone in a position to corroborate Landis’s claims or make similar ones, will inevitably loosen. The consequences of lying to a federal investigator are severe.
A person close to Landis told Cycling Weekly on Thursday that Landis has already been co-operating with federal investigators from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agency and had conducted at least one interview, with more planned. The source claimed that Jeff Novitzky, the FDA agent who investigated the BALCO laboratory, uncovering doping in American sports and resulting in a prison term for Marion Jones, was on the case. The Wall Street Journal has also reported that Novitzky is investigating, although the FDA declined to confirm or deny.
CW has been in contact with the United States Postal Service. As a Government agency, it is reasonable to assume that it will be interested in finding out what happened to its money once it was paid to Tailwind Sports, the company that owned and ran the team.
When the United States Postal Service terminated its nine-year sponsorship of the team at the end of 2004, it was reported the agency’s commitment had risen to around $8m a year. Certainly over the course of the sponsorship, tens of millions of dollars were paid to sponsor the team.
In an interview with espn.com, Floyd Landis, said the first time he doped was in June 2002, his first year with the US Postal Service team. He claims he paid $10,000 that year for the services of Dr Michele Ferrari, who helped Landis extract and transfuse his blood. He says the sports management at the team knew about the doping and were involved in it.
Asked whether the United States Postal Service had any comment to make regarding Floyd Landis’s allegations of doping within the team between 2002 and 2004, Joanne Veto, a spokesperson at USPS said: “The Postal Service has no comment on the allegations.”
When asked to confirm how the USPS is funded, Ms Veto said: “The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.”
CW followed up to ask whether the USPS, as a government agency, will be launching any investigation of its own into the team and the admission by Landis that he doped for the three years he was on team. We await a response.
Although it was no longer directly funded by tax payers’ money by the time it sponsored the cycling team (funding directly from the tax payer ceased in the 1980s), the United States Postal Service is nevertheless a government agency. The majority of the members of its board are appointed by the President. It is a public service and if it is not already, surely must be poised to investigate in light of Landis’s confession that he doped while wearing a jersey bearing the agency’s name and logo.