Steroid Cop Quizzes Lance Armstrong's Ex-Teammates
He's been called high-minded, a trailblazing lawman and America's top steroid cop. Federal agent Novitzky is becoming big name in pro cycling.
"As a result of the BALCO investigation he became well-known in government circles," said Don Catlin, the respected Los Angeles chemist and longtime anti-doping crusader who tutored Novitzky. "He became a star."
Novitzky's name surfaced again this spring, when allegations of widespread doping by disgraced former tour winner Floyd Landis, a former Armstrong teammate, breathed new life into an existing federal probe looking into one of pro cycling's lower-rung teams.
Douglas Miller, assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, has refused to comment on the composition, scope or targets of the investigation. But the issuing of subpoenas to cyclists and Armstrong sponsors has suggested that at its center is the former Tour champ, who became a global sporting brand and hero to cancer survivors as he dominated cycling from 1999-2005, all the while combating suspicions that he doped.
Armstrong has long insisted that he has never used performance-enhancing drugs, and he has test results to back him up. His attorneys have complained that cyclists are being offered deals on their own drug use if they come forward with admissions that implicate him. Armstrong himself has said he's happy to participate in a legitimate investigation but not a "witch hunt."
Novitzky, who frequently shows up in the courtroom for cases he works on, routinely declines interviews, saying publicity hampers his ability to do his job.
He told an AP reporter who recently showed up on his doorstep, "I ain't talking, man."
Novitzky stands an imposing 6-foot-6 and at age 43, still looks like the basketball and track standout he was at nearby Mills High School, before knee and back injuries derailed his collegiate athletic career. The son of a high school basketball coach, he still lives near his parents and had just returned from one of his daughters' volleyball practices.
With one daughter clinging to a leg, Novitzky repeated, "I ain't talking," and waved off any further questions.
Armstrong attorney Tim Herman complained in a letter to Miller last month about leaks pertaining to the investigation. He also questioned whether it was an appropriate use of federal resources, time and money "to ‘investigate' any sport, much less European cycling, especially when the principal source of the allegations (Landis) is a self-confessed perjurer."
The advocates for cleaning up sports think it is worth investigating.
To them, Novitzky is a hero. He does the dirty work pro sports leagues won't do themselves, whether that means testifying in a trial, twisting arms or leading a raid, as he did when agents shut down the Champaign, Ill., lab of Patrick Arnold, the chemist behind a BALCO steroid known as "the clear."
Arnold subsequently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids. The investigation resulted in a half-dozen other guilty pleas or convictions and reportedly cost $50 million. The longest sentence was handed to Troy Ellerman, an attorney for BALCO founder Victor Conte, and vice president James Valente, who leaked details of the case to the San Francisco newspaper reporters who wrote "Game of Shadows." Ellerman was given 2 1/2 years.
Novitzky and several other IRS