Much good has come from Floyd Landis’ straight shooting email account so far, but the best news for clean sports junkies could be the involvement of federal performance enhancement watchdog Jeff Novitzky.  Novitzky has already met with Landis, and aims to broaden the scope of the federal investigation into doping in cycling, which would be bad news for Lance Armstrong, who has been vehement in his denials that he used PEDs, despite a positive test for Erithropoietin (EPO), a drug that increases the blood’s capacity to carry Oxygen.

As federal authorities have taken a greater interest in the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs over the past decade, athletes have not been the target of investigations. Instead, the athletes have been questioned by federal authorities before grand juries and their testimony has been used to bring charges against trainers and doctors who dealt the drugs.

If the authorities proceed with a more ambitious investigation that looks into fraud and conspiracy charges, they could take aim at Armstrong, who had an ownership stake in Tailwind Sports, the company that owned several of his past cycling teams, and the other cyclists, said the two people briefed on the matter.

The federal agent Jeff Novitzky, who has been the lead investigator on the major doping investigations since the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative case began in 2002, is playing a direct role in the investigation. Novitzky has met with Floyd Landis, who lives in Southern California, and has been working closely with officials from the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

Prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office for the Northern District of California, which is based in the Bay Area, have worked closely with Novitzky, and would have jurisdiction to investigate the case because Tailwind Sports was based in San Francisco. The investor Thom Weisel, of the investment banking firm Thomas Weisel Partners Group, was the founder and chairman of Tailwind Sports. Armstrong eventually became a co-owner.

This is a sword with many edges for Armstrong, who could be in legal trouble if it is found that any of his cycling teams purchased performance enhancing drugs, if Armstrong billed himself to sponsors as a clean athlete and profited from that misrepresentation (fraud), or if he simply used performance enhancing drugs to earn more prize money.

Today’s news comes on the heels of a New York Times article that suggests that in small quantities, scientists have discovered that EPO can act as a successful masking agent for other PEDs.

The blood-boosting hormone that was cycling’s greatest doping issue during the 1990s may be back as the sport’s newest problem.It has long been known that athletes can use small, carefully timed doses of the blood booster EPO to beat urine-based drug tests yet still gain a significant performance advantage. But research in Australia and France has found that the technique also eludes the long-range biological passport program that was supposed to overcome conventional testing’s shortcomings.

At the World Anti-Doping Agency board meeting here earlier this month, officials acknowledged that they had a problem when it came to the technique, known as microdosing. Few people in the antidoping world think the loophole is unknown to cyclists, leading to concern that EPO is making a comeback.

Jeff Novitzky, who made the BALCO case, seems eager to push forward into PEDs in cycling, and that’s got to scare Armstrong, who, in a worst case scenario, could face long prison sentences on multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy, and who is subject to being stripped of some, if not all of his Tour De France victories, if scientific evidence surfaces that he used human growth hormone.

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