AP Source: US investigators talk to French police

Posted Nov. 17, 2010, at 11:15 a.m.
Last modified Nov. 17, 2010, at 8:07 p.m.

LYON, France — American investigators interviewed police officers at Interpol headquarters on Wednesday, the second straight day U.S. and French authorities met to discuss allegations of doping by Lance Armstrong and other cyclists, a senior French official said.

On Tuesday, the delegation including U.S. Food and Drug Administration agent Jeff Novitzky questioned representatives of the French anti-doping agency that has stored some of Armstrong’s samples from the 1999 Tour de France. Armstrong won the Tour a record seven times, every year from 1999 to 2005.

The Americans met Wednesday with investigators from the national police agency responsible for probing doping cases in France, a senior police official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the talks publicly.

The police agency has been involved in a French investigation of syringes and transfusion equipment found in a trash container after the 2009 Tour. French officials say the material belonged to the Astana cycling team that included Armstrong and Tour winner Alberto Contador.

Police have previously questioned former Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel, former sporting director Alain Gallopin and the team’s two doctors. Contador, meanwhile, has been accused separately of doping in the 2010 Tour, which he also won.

The police official who spoke to the AP said Interpol acted as an intermediary for Wednesday’s talks in Lyon, the south-central city where the agency is headquartered.

Late Wednesday afternoon, three men walked out of the glass and concrete Interpol building, heading for the complex’s parking area. A car with dark tinted windows left a few minutes later.

A French official had previously said that U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart and U.S. federal prosecutor Doug Miller were also believed to be traveling with Novitzky.

Two French police officers guarding the building, which is also protected by an electric fence, said the delegation would make no comment because its meetings were confidential.

On Tuesday evening, Novitzky refused comment when approached by an AP reporter at his nearby hotel. He checked out of the hotel Wednesday.

The American delegation met Tuesday in Lyon with Francoise Lasne, the director of the French anti-doping agency’s lab, and testing director Jean-Pierre Verdy.

Another French official told the AP on Wednesday that Tygart met former French anti-doping lab head Pierre Bordry earlier this summer to discuss the matter. Bordry resigned in September.

The official, who was speaking anonymously because the investigation is still ongoing, said Bordry met Tygart in Paris and that the “French anti-doping agency’s general secretary (Robert Bertrand) also went to Colorado a few days ago to speak with him during a meeting of international anti-doping agencies.”

The French official confirmed American legal authorities asked their French counterparts for cooperation on the case in September.

“The procedure is currently being implemented. At this point, no documents have been transmitted to the Americans. I would say we are making contact with them and everything is going perfectly,” the official said. “But if we need to submit documents and other stuff, we will do it.”

Also Wednesday, Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that police officers from Spain’s Guardia Civil, French police, and Italian police and customs officers, headed by public prosecutor Benedetto Roberti, first met at Interpol headquarters at the end of July.

Novitzky’s investigation took a new turn this spring with disgraced 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis’ allegations that Armstrong and members of his former U.S. Postal team systematically doped. A grand jury in Los Angeles has been hearing evidence from the investigation for months in closed sessions. By visiting France, the U.S. officials could gather more material to work with.

L’Equipe reported days after the 2005 Tour finished that Armstrong’s samples from the ’99 Tour contained traces of EPO. Armstrong, who retired in ’05 before coming back for the ’09 and ’10 Tours, has repeatedly denied allegations he doped.

“The samples were clean when originally provided and tested,” Mark Fabiani, an attorney for Armstrong, said in a statement sent to the AP on Tuesday. “So we have nothing to be concerned about. Period.”

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AP Sports Writers Samuel Petrequin and Jerome Pugmire in Paris and Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.

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