A former team-mate of Lance Armstrong has reportedly backed claims by disgraced Floyd Landis that the seven-time Tour de France winner took part in and encouraged doping within the US Postal team.
A New York Times report said the man, who wished to remain anonymous, had spoken with investigators detailing "some of his own drug use, as well as the widespread cheating that he said went on as part of the Postal Service team – all of which he alleged was done with Armstrong's knowledge and encouragement".
The report said the rider in question "has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs or methods" and "asked that his name not be used because investigators advised him not to speak publicly about the information he provided".
Armstrong is credited with one of the greatest comebacks in sport after beating testicular cancer in 1998 and going on to win the first of his seven consecutive Tour titles a year later.
Those achievements seem under threat from a federal investigation launched in the wake of Landis's allegations that US Postal used systematic doping practices to gain an edge over their rivals.
Bryan Daly, Armstrong's attorney, dismissed the report in a statement, noting that Armstrong has never failed a doping test. "This is a story full of anonymous sources and more inappropriate leaks of grand jury testimony designed to create a circus-like atmosphere," he said.
"We understand that riders may be being offered sweetheart deals to change testimony that they have given in the past under oath. The power of the federal government is being abused to pursue dated and discredited allegations, and that's flat-out wrong, unethical, un-American, and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
"To the extent that any riders are suggesting that Lance Armstrong violated cycling rules or doped, they are either mistaken or not telling the truth. Lance has ridden with hundreds of riders over the years who will support his position, and over all that time he has never failed even a single test."
Landis, the 2006 Tour winner who was stripped of his title for doping, levelled the accusations against Armstrong several months ago when he finally ended four years of denials by confessing to doping throughout his career. Since then several of Armstrong's former employees and team-mates have been contacted by federal investigators.
A lawyer for American George Hincapie, Zia F Modabber, said in July that former US Postal rider Hincapie was likely to talk to investigators once the Tour was over. Another former US Postal rider, Tyler Hamilton, is serving an eight-year ban for using performance-enhancing drugs.
The Times report claimed that Hamilton's lawyer, Chris Manderson, said Hamilton had received a grand jury subpoena but did not say whether Hamilton had already provided testimony.
Armstrong, has categorically denied the allegations and said that Landis has no credibility. At the end of his final Tour de France appearance last month, he said he would deny any involvement in doping "as long as I live".
The Times report said more riders are expected to meet with the grand jury as early as next week.
© AFP 2010