Lance Armstrong's former wife may have to testify against him

The 33-page court document filed by the US Department of Justice, which has joined the "whistleblower suit" of Floyd Landis against Lance Armstrong and associates, raises for the first time the possibility that Armstrong's former wife, Kristin, may be called as a witness in the trial.

Kristin Armstrong, who was married to the cyclist from 1998 to 2003 and who is the mother of his three eldest children, has until now made no public statement about her former husband and his life ban for doping.

The court documents contain testimony from Landis that on two separate occasions – in St Moritz, Switzerland, in 2002 and in Gerona, Spain, in 2003 – Kristin Armstrong witnessed Lance Armstrong supply doping products to Landis.

The Justice Department and Landis are suing Armstrong and his business partners in Tailwind Sports, the company that ran the US Postal Service Team from 1999 to 2004, for millions of dollars in damages. The lawsuit alleges that the US Postal Service was defrauded of at least $40m in sponsorship because Armstrong and his co-defendants were running a systematic doping programme in violation of their agreements with the USPS.

Kristin Armstrong was mentioned in the US Anti-Doping Agency "reasoned decision", published last year, as having knowledge of her husband's use of performance-enhancing drugs, but she has maintained her silence. The couple met in 1997 while he was still being treated for testicular cancer. They married in 1998 and remained so for his first four Tour de France victories, though they had separated by the time of his fifth.

According to the Justice Department's court deposition, shortly before the 2002 Tour de France, Landis paid a visit to the apartment where the Armstrongs were staying in Switzerland. "Mr Armstrong gave him [Landis] a package of 2.5ml testosterone patches in front of Mr Armstrong's wife at the time, Kirsten [sic] Armstrong."

The following year, before the 2003 Tour of Spain, Landis went to see Armstrong at his family home in Gerona. There, "[he] happened to encounter Mr Armstrong along with his wife and children in the entryway of the building. Mr Armstrong then handed Mr Landis a box of EPO in full view of his then wife and three children."

The inclusion of these two episodes in the court filing suggests that the Justice Department intends to subpoena Kristin Armstrong to appear as a witness under oath. US courts do recognise "spousal privilege", and Kristin Armstrong may invoke this to avoid responding to questions about any conversation she may have had with her then husband during the time they were married. However, legal experts the Guardian has consulted said that this privilege applies only to communications between husband and wife; it cannot be invoked to cover events Kristin Armstrong is alleged to have witnessed. That opens up the intriguing scenario that Kristin Armstrong will be obliged to testify against her former husband.The case is also likely to have repercussions for cycle sport's governing body in the United States, USA Cycling. One of the defendants, the investment banker and Armstrong's long-time financial backer Thomas Weisel, provided major financial aid to the organisation in the early 2000s and allegedly helped install his friends and associates Steve Johnson and Jim Ochowicz in key roles. The suit alleges that "these conflicts of interest and overlapping relationships … helped make it possible for the USPS team to carry on the extensive program of systematically doping team athletes".

The deposition also contains allegations from Landis that will be embarrassing for Trek Bikes, which sponsored the USPS team and continued to sponsor Lance Armstrong personally until he was stripped of his titles in 2012. Another Tailwind executive, Livestrong director and defendant in the case Bart Knaggs, is alleged by Landis to have been involved in a scheme that involved selling off team bikes, supplied by Trek, to create a slush fund to pay for the USPS team's doping programme. Almost all cycling sponsorship agreements include clauses that make systematic doping a breach of contract.

Powered by article was written by Matt Seaton in New York, for The Guardian on Wednesday 24th April 2013 19.44 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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