FBI Reviewing Lance Armstrong's Run-In with Doping Accuser

A tense confrontation between rivals could be construed as witness tampering

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The FBI is looking into Lance Armstrong's run-in with former teammate Tyler Hamilton, who now accuses Armstrong of doping, at an Aspen restaurant on Saturday. If just about any two other people exchanged hostile words in a restaurant bar it would be, at most, a matter for local police. But Hamilton and Armstrong have a special relationship, to say the least. Hamilton is a key witness in an ongoing FBI investigation into allegations that seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong used banned performance-enhancing drugs, including testosterone and the blood-doping agent erythropoietin (EPO). Hamilton made the same allegations very, very publicly on 60 Minutes last month.

Guilty or not, Armstrong had little reason to greet Hamilton cordially, but the report that he blocked Hamilton's path with his arm and threatened him has attracted the attention of the FBI because it could amount to witness tampering. The New York Times spoke to co-owner of Cache Cache restaurant, where the confrontation took place.

[Jodi] Larner said Armstrong and his girlfriend, Anna Hansen, were having tequila drinks at the bar with Larner and two other friends when Hamilton walked by the bar at about 10 p.m. Armstrong stopped him and said, “ ‘Hey dude,’ in a very sarcastic tone,” and Hamilton, looking shaken, tried to hug Armstrong, Larner said.

Larner said she did not hear the rest of the conversation, but that Armstrong never left his barstool while he and Hamilton spoke. 

Hamilton's lawyer suggested to the paper that Armstrong threatened Hamilton, telling him, "We’re going to destroy you on the witness stand and we’re going to make your life a living hell."

For those following the case closely, the report that the FBI has subpoena'd security tapes from the kitchen of Cache Cache may not be too surprising. Lead investigator Jeff Novitsky, who also lead the investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative and Barry Bonds' steroid use, has a reputation for being aggressive to the point of being downright nasty. Lawyers in the Bonds case accused him of lying in court documents to obtain evidence. According to The Times, "he has been known to take [his targets'] trash home some nights, to keep working." But Larner said today the FBI might not find her security tapes very useful:

Larner, a friend of Armstrong’s, said the videotape would have images only from the kitchen area of her restaurant, so she doubted that it would help the F.B.I. because the confrontation occurred in the bar area. “I wish I had the incident on tape, so the whole world could see what happened between Tyler and Lance, and shut up about it already,” she said. “It was a nonevent.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.