Tes­ti­mony in cy­cling probe

Stephanie McIl­vain’s tes­ti­mony is part of fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged dop­ing in pro­fes­sional cy­cling.

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - Lance Pug­mire

An as­so­ci­ate of Lance Arm­strong ap­pears be­fore a fed­eral grand jury in Los An­ge­les.

One of Lance Arm­strong’s close as­so­ci­ates told a fed­eral grand jury Wed­nes­day that pre­vi­ously tape-recorded com­ments in which she talks neg­a­tively about the cham­pion cy­clist and is asked about per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drug use were noth­ing more than “gos­sip ses­sions that just weren’t true,” the woman’s at­tor­ney told The Times.

Stephanie McIl­vain, the li­ai­son to Arm­strong em­ployed by spon­sor Oak­ley Inc., en­dured what her at­tor­ney Tom Bienert de­scribed as a “very emo­tional” day as she spent more than seven hours be­fore the grand jury panel with As­sis­tant U.S. Atty. Doug Miller and Jeff Novitzky, the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion agent lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged sys­tem­atic drug use in cy­cling.

Bienert said McIl­vain “tes­ti­fied truth­fully. Most of what she was asked about was be­tween five and 14 years old, so she didn’t have the great­est re­call. But she con­firmed she had no per­sonal knowl­edge of Lance Arm­strong us­ing or tak­ing per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs.”

Bienert ac­knowl­edged he was not al­lowed in the grand jury room dur­ing the ques­tion­ing but of­fered what he said were McIl­vain’s rec­ol­lec­tions of the ses­sion. “She’s drained,” he said.

Out­side the court, Miller and Novitzky de­clined to com­ment. Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors and agents may not pub­licly dis­cuss se­cret grand jury pro­ceed­ings.

McIl­vain was brought in to an­swer ques­tions about her ac­counts of what Arm­strong may have told can­cer doc­tors in 1996. For­mer team­mate Frankie An­dreu and his wife, Betsy, were in the hos­pi­tal room along with McIl­vain. The An­dreus al­lege that Arm­strong con­fessed to hav­ing used per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs.

In a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion — al­legedly recorded in 2004 — with three-time Tour de France cham­pion Greg LeMond, McIl­vain blasts Arm­strong as a liar though she never clar­i­fies what she ac­cuses him of ly­ing about.

On the tape, she tells LeMond she “heard it” but never spec­i­fies what “it” is. McIl­vain goes on to tell LeMond that Arm­strong’s emer­gence as a can­cer cru­sader was “the most disgusting thing ever for some­one to do.”

Ayear later, McIl­vain tes­ti­fied un­der oath in a Texas civil case that she never heard Arm­strong ad­mit any­thing about us­ing drugs in that hos­pi­tal room.

Betsy An­dreu has said she has given fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors voice­mail record­ings in which McIl­vain al­legedly “apol­o­gizes for ly­ing” in the 2005 case. An­dreu told pros­e­cu­tors that McIl­vain has said to her she was concerned that not back­ing Arm­strong would im­peril her ca­reer.

Bienert, how­ever, said Wed­nes­day of McIl­vain, “At no time did her em­ployer pres­sure her to say any­thing that was not hon­est.”

Told of Bienert’s com­ments about the con­tent of the record­ings be­ing “gos­sip,” An­dreu said, “The weight of the ev­i­dence will show she’s ly­ing.” An­dreu did not elab­o­rate.

Bienert took is­sue with the record­ings, say­ing An­dreu and LeMond manipulated McIl­vain, who is rais­ing an autis­tic son.

“It’s a shame these peo­ple try­ing to bring Lance down used her to en­gage in some­thing that was noth­ing more than gos­sip and spec­u­la­tion,” Bienert said.

Of Wed­nes­day’s tes­ti­mony, he said, “It was dif­fi­cult for Stephanie to ad­mit that her per­sonal frailty al­lowed her to en­gage in these gos­sip ses­sions. . . . In the grand jury, she was go­ing to tell the truth, and the truth is she has no knowl­edge of Lance Arm­strong ever us­ing per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs.” lance.pug­mire@latimes.com twit­ter.com/la­time­spug­mire

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