Margot Myers knew Lance Armstrong better than almost anybody at the U.S. Postal Service. Fluent in French, she was tapped four years running to be the Postal Service's on the ground representative for its professional cycling team at the Tour de France.
"In the early days of Lance, I was scheduling his interviews and writing a daily column for the Postal service website," said Myers, the former Director of Communications for U.S. Postal.
Numerous former teammates of Armstrong have been called before a Los Angeles grand jury investigating whether the cyclist and other team officials defrauded the Postal Service by allegedly taking banned substances during their long running sponsorship.
But Myers, who worked 24 years at the U.S. Postal Service, said she hasn't gotten so much as a post card from the federal investigators. "They haven't asked to talk to me. Nobody has told me that I got a call or a subpoena," she said. "I was back there at Postal headquarters on Monday and nobody said a word about it (the federal investigation)."
For the record Myers thinks the investigation "is pretty ridiculous."
She cited the little known fact that Armstrong did not have a contract with the U.S. Postal Service. "The (cycling) contract was between U.S. Postal and the owner of the team," she said. "Not between Postal and Armstrong. I have a hard time understanding where the fraud assertion (against Armstrong) comes in."
Myers, who now heads Education and Training at the Platt Retail Institute, also noted that while U.S. Postal is part of the government, during the period when it sponsored the cycling team, it was self-funded. "They are not talking about taxpayer dollars. It's not the same as the Army or Social Security (Administration). Postal is not funded by Congress."
She also said another misconception was that Postal was the only sponsor. "The Postal Service was one of many sponsors. There were plenty of others, paying money or in kind contributions. All that money was paid to (the team's owners) Montgomery and Tailwind Sports."
Myers said Postal's sponsorship of the cycling team was a huge success. "I know at the first meeting, with all of the sponsors at beginning of each year we had a compilation of all the (media) coverage," said Myers. "Once Lance started winning that number started expanding exponentially." She noted the promotional value of Armstrong twice winning athlete of the year, and his photo wearing the U.S. Postal jersey appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
But what about the leaked federal claims that Armstrong and teammates cheated their way to seven Tour de France victories? Myers had no comment on the doping allegations, but also said she was unconvinced that the team dominated because of prohibited blood transfusions or banned substances.
"I also know how hard Lance and the rest of the team worked," said Myers. "They took a different approach. The Tour was the 90 percent focus of the team for the year. Lance and Johan (Bruyneel) sat down and developed a strategy to win the Tour that nobody else had done before. They'd go out and do reconnaissance on the mountain stages so they knew where the twists and turns were. Then there was Lance's lung capacity. You start with those physical attributes, and then you have someone coming back from beating cancer and wanting to prove something."
Wanting to prove something has been at the heart of the federal Armstrong investigation. Unlike BALCO, however, investigators will be hard pressed to be able to charge Armstrong with perjury. Nor will it be enough to allege that he cheated fellow competitors. To secure a winnable criminal indictment will require evidence that Armstrong personally committed a contractual fraud against the U.S. Postal Service.
Documents more than doping allegations may determine the cyclist's fate. Exactly what his contracts did or didn't say will be essential. If Armstrong truly did not have a contract with the U.S. Postal Service, it's going to be fascinating to see how the government can weave a theory of fraud.
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