Inside the talk of a Lance Armstrong investigation

lance-armstrong.jpgIn today's Los Angeles Daily Journal, reporter Gabe Friedman says that "as federal prosecutors ramp up the high-profile criminal investigation into alleged doping by U.S. pro cyclists, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, two questions have stumped observers: Why here? Why now?"

Armstrong has outrun allegations he used performance-enhancing substances ever since he won his last Tour de France in 2005, always passing drug tests and even issuing blanket denials under oath.

The rumors seemed to be reignited in May by his former teammate, Floyd Landis, who publicly accused Armstrong of doping. But attorneys involved in the case say they believe the investigation's timing, and location in Los Angeles, may not be coincidental - triggered partly by a separate federal criminal case against a Mexican actress for marriage fraud that is connected to a fashion industry entrepreneur with close ties to pro cycling.

Michael Ball, CEO of Rock & Republic and a pro cycling sponsor, has hovered at the periphery of that sham marriage trial, which wrapped up this week, and the investigation of Armstrong, though the connection has gone unreported. Federal investigators raided Ball's Marina del Rey house in May looking for evidence related to the Armstrong probe, according to attorneys familiar with the case.

One thing is now certain, Friedman reports: "The doping investigation is focused on Armstrong and prosecutors are still at an early stage of interviewing witnesses, according to several attorneys who spoke on condition of anonymity. On Tuesday, Armstrong's legal team held its first face-to-face meeting with Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte, in what they described as an attempt to open a dialogue." Officially, the lawyers had no comment. No link available for DJ stories.

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