A deeper look at Lance Armstrong docs

January, 14, 2011
Lance ArmstrongDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesJust how much did the Postal Service spend to accomodate Lance's team?

A release of never-before-seen documents by the U.S. Postal Service shows why the agency's sponsorship of Lance Armstrong's cycling team during his heyday has become so controversial, and why a federal grand jury currently sitting in Los Angeles is scouring its details.

As The File reports for ESPN.com, the documents show that the agency spent $31.9 million sponsoring Armstrong's team, Tailwind Sports, from 2001-04. The figure will become significant if the federal investigation turns up evidence that Armstrong and team members engaged in systemic doping, as former teammate Floyd Landis has alleged. If prosecutors can prove that taxpayer funds were spent financing a team that was winning through the use of banned drugs, they could charge fraud.

But as early as 2003, when the USPS inspector general audited the deal, there were grave concerns about oversights. The IG found that the agency lacked "adequate controls and measures over the sponsorships" and specifically cited a lack of "goals and objectives."

What follows are additional documents that shed light on what taxpayers got for their money.

• Before Armstrong was hired in 1998, the Postal Service committed to spending a relatively modest $1 million to finance the team in 1996. Note that the contract contains no morals clause specifically mentioning drug use.

• A morals clause was finally inserted in this four-year contract, executed in late 2000, after headlines began surfacing linking team members to use of a controversial blood booster. This contract pays the team three times more in 2001 than it earned in 1998.

• In an effort to prove its worth, Tailwind offered this prospectus, attaching dollar values to the publicity it received. What, only $346,250 for a segment on "SportsCenter"?

• As this letter from a postal official shows, partying clearly was a major concern. In 2003, USPS officials decided to spend $75,000 on a "complete VIP hospitality program for selected guests of the sponsor during the Tour de France." This e-mail shows how much time officials were spending making their VIPs got face time with Armstrong.

• So many reporters wanted a piece of Lance by November 2003 that the Tailwind contract was bumped up by $200,000 so 25 members of the postal team could fly to USPS headquarters for a two-day press-op.

• In 2004, the agency spent another $100,000 for VIP trailers with catering to pro cycling events. This modification adds Aspen and L.A. to the list of places where agency officials entertained. As the document notes, a $5,000 service fee is included.

Shaun Assael | email

ESPN Senior Writer
• Senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com
• New York Times best-selling author. New book in 2016: "The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin & Heavyweights."



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