Levi Leipheimer’s ties to Lance Armstrong continue despite the fact that they no longer race together. He faces a reported six-month ban as part of an investigation into Armstrong in the USA. He told Cycling Weekly and a group of journalists this morning that he would not comment on the investigations.
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that it had a source that said Americans Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie and Jonathan Vaughters would serve a six month ban at the end of this year due to doping evidence uncovered in the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation.
Leipheimer raced for four years with Armstrong and helped him win the Tour de France. He currently races with Omega Pharma-QuickStep is rumoured to be one of around 10 riders who USADA said testified of their, and Armstrong’s, doping practices from 1996 to 2010.
“With the exception of Mr Armstrong, every other US rider contacted by the USADA … agreed to meet with the USADA and to truthfully and fully describe their involvement,” USADA said in its June 12 letter of formal action. It later charged Armstrong, former sports director, Johan Bruyneel and four others.
De Telegraaf‘s journalist told Cycling Weekly its source was reliable but refused to name him. Regardless, this morning it stirred a storm around the team buses. Zabriskie and Vande Velde refused to comment and Vaughters read a pre-written statement from his telephone. Both Hincapie and Leipheimer faced the press, but said little. Leipheimer said he wouldn’t comment nine times.
LL: “All I can say is that I’m here at the Tour de France and I’m 100 focused on this race. So far, I’m still in the hunt for the classification. That’s all I have to say.”
Q: Is there a deal with USADA?
LL: “Again, I can’t say anything. I’m not going to comment. Beyond that, I’m here in the Tour with Omega Pharma-QuickStep and that’s all I can say.”
Q: Vaughters said the suspension for six months didn’t exist in the deal. Is that true?
LL: “I don’t know anything about that.”
Q: The [source] claims that you admitted to doping and that you also testified against Lance. Is it true?
LL: “Again, I don’t have anything to say about this story. I don’t think it would help the situation, this speculation, so I’m not going to say anything.”
Q: You don’t comment?
LL: “I don’t comment?”
Q: Are you denying anything?
LL: “I’ll just say I don’t comment.”
Q: Is your whole legacy at stake?
LL: “Ahh, again, I don’t have anything to comment on. I’m here at the Tour. I’m racing and I’m 100 per cent committed to doing my best race, especially for our sponsors. I’m relaxed and looking forward to the next two weeks.”
Q: Is it not important for you to show a clean image?
LL: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”
Q: Why won’t you say anything now?
LL: “I don’t have anything to say.”
Q: Did you ever testify with the FDA?
LL: “No comment.”
Q: Did you ever testify with the USADA?
LL: “No comment.”
Q: If one is going to be banned for six months, should he be racing the Tour de France?
LL: “No comment.”
Q: Was you decision to drop out of the Olympics have something to do with the report this morning. What was the main reason why you decided not to go to the Olympics?
LL: “Ah, really, no comment. I did have a broken leg at the beginning of the year. I think that … I don’t know if I was the best choice to go to the Olympics.”
Q: What’s your relationship to Lance Armstrong today?
LL: “I haven’t spoken with him, I haven’t heard from him.”
Q: Have you been contacted by the USADA?
LL: “No comment. Sorry.”
Cycling Weekly spoke with an Omega Pharma-QuickStep team director, Brian Holm and its press officer. They said that they didn’t know if he’s involved or the extent of his involvement in the doping investigation. General Manager Patrick Lefevere will arrive to the team’s hotel in Reims and will discuss the situation with Leipheimer this evening.
They gave no indication if Leipheimer would abandon the Tour. He currently sits only 45 seconds behind Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan).