Lance probe heats up
Paris - An investigation by the US into allegations of doping in professional cycling has shifted its focus to France, with talks scheduled with the French body that has stored some of Lance Armstrong's urine samples and plans to share "everything" it knows with the Americans, a French official said.
The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to publicly discuss the meeting with France's anti-doping agency which he said is scheduled for this week.
The official said he believes that the American delegation comprises US Food and Drug Administration Agent, Jeff Novitzky, as well as US federal prosecutor, Doug Miller, and US Anti-Doping Agency CEO, Travis Tygart.
"They are in France, that is for sure," the official said.
Novitzky was on Tuesday booked into a hotel in the south-central French city of Lyon, headquarters of the international police agency Interpol. Miller had also been booked in at the same hotel but then cancelled the reservation.
An Interpol spokeswoman, speaking on condition that she not be named according to the agency's rules, said that she could not confirm whether Novitzky was meeting with Interpol officials.
Calls to Tygart's mobile phone went unanswered on Tuesday morning. In a recorded message, Tygart said he was out of the office on business.
The official told The AP that France's anti-doping agency would share "everything we know, everything we have; in the fridges, in the freezers, everything, everywhere" and is prepared to answer "everything that they ask.
The former head of the French agency, Pierre Bordry, previously promised to hand over Armstrong's samples from the 1999 Tour de France to Novitzky if the agent makes an official request. Bordry announced his resignation this September after battling with French authorities over the budget for the doping agency, known by its French initials AFLD.
The French official said he does not know whether US investigators have formally requested the samples.
"They can't just take them with them. There's all the preparation that needs to be done before that happens," he said.
The French sports daily L'Equipe reported in 2005 that Armstrong's samples from 1999 contained traces of the banned performance-enhancer EPO.
An investigator mandated by cycling's international governing body, the UCI, later cleared Armstrong. The seven-time Tour de France winner has repeatedly denied allegations that he took performance-enhancing drugs.
US federal prosecutors have been taking a look 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 this spring after disgraced Tour de France winner Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 title after 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.