Payback is a beyotch! Looks like Sheryl Crow may have played a part in Lance Armstrong’s demise…
When the doper’s code of silence around Lance Armstrong cracked, Sheryl Crow was obliged to sing.
Crow, who was once engaged to the tarnished cyclist, provided information last year in a far-reaching federal investigation into the doping programs that fueled her former fiancé’s victorious Tour de France teams, the Daily News has learned.
Federal agents interviewed the Grammy-winning musician in late 2011, just before a grand jury probe into Armstrong and his associates abruptly ended without any criminal charges being handed up.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency banned Armstrong on Aug. 24 and stripped his Tour de France titles after Armstrong abandoned a legal challenge to doping charges the non-profit agency issued in June. According to USADA, more than 10 cyclists cooperated with its two-year probe of Armstrong’s teams, which paralleled the federal investigation.
Armstrong, now 40, has vowed he competed clean, but a tidal wave of inside information about doping conspiracies on his teams is now flooding into public view, testing the promise Armstrong issued last week in which he claimed he is finished answering questions about the matter.
The grand jury’s probe came to an abrupt end in February 2012 when the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles announced it had suspended the case without filing charges. The grand jury is not believed to have issued a no-true bill rejecting the government’s case, meaning that Armstrong theoretically still faces legal jeopardy.
Crow’s relationship with Armstrong became public in 2003, after Armstrong divorced his wife of five years, Kristin Armstrong. The celebrity romance spanned the last two of Armstrong’s now-invalidated seven Tour de France victories, and coincided with the sophisticated doping exploits and cover-ups that witnesses have described as an open secret within Armstrong’s inner circle.
“Lance Armstrong’s War,” a 2005 book by Daniel Coyle that opened a window on Crow and Armstrong’s charmed life together in Europe, features a scene in which Italian doctor Michele Ferrari worries the singer’s presence with the team distracts Armstrong from his preparation. (USADA banned Ferrari in July as part of the Armstrong doping case, describing him as a crucial accessory; Ferrari denied the charges in a statement on his website, but chose not to fight the ban.)
Armstrong and Crow publicly called off their five-month marriage engagement in early 2006, about two weeks before Crow announced she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy to treat ductal carcinoma in situ in her left breast. She and Armstrong spoke fondly of each other after parting ways.
While they were together, they were one of America’s golden couples — two cosmopolitan beautiful people at the rarefied heights of their respective careers. They lived a jet-setting life in Los Angeles, Spain and Texas, giving cozy interviews to Oprah Winfrey about the cute way their love had blossomed during Andre Agassi’s charity event in Las Vegas.
Crow stayed with Armstrong in an apartment in Girona, Spain, that Armstrong’s former teammates, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, have described as a distribution point for performance-enhancing drugs and a place to store bags of blood before reinfusing it at big races — a banned and then all-but-undetectable doping method that boosts a rider’s red blood cell count, instantly building endurance.
Crow also traveled with Armstrong in private jets that Landis and Hamilton have said were critical to doping schemes.
Hamilton mentions Crow briefly in a new book written in partnership with Coyle, claiming in a footnote that a “source close to the investigation” said that Crow was subpoenaed weeks before the grand jury probe’s closure.
The official on-sale date for the book, “The Secret Race,” is Wednesday. The book describes how Hamilton and his teammates doped and covered it up.
Hamilton’s graphic tell-all is cycling’s answer to Jose Canseco’s 2005 baseball steroid memoir, “Juiced” — only with the machismo replaced by sadness and pain. The doping methods are far more gruesome, involving furtive storage and transport of blood bags. Hamilton claims that before the 1999 Tour de France Armstrong gave him erythropoetin (the banned blood booster EPO) that he kept in the fridge in Spain.
In 2005, soon after accepting Armstrong’s marriage proposal in a boat on a lake near Stanley, Idaho, Crow gave an interview to USA Today in which she discussed their relationship and her new album, Wildflowers. The interviewer asked Crow about the doping allegations that followed Armstrong throughout his career.
At the time of the interview, Armstrong had recently attacked a damaging report from the French daily sports newspaper L’Equipe, where investigative reporter Damien Ressiot revealed that an anti-doping laboratory had found EPO in code-labeled samples of Armstrong’s urine from the 1999 Tour de France.
Armstrong had cited alleged French anti-Americanism as an explanation for the tainted samples, but Crow saw things differently.
“I don’t think the French people are on a mission to strip him of his integrity,” Crow said. “It’s just a handful of people pursuing that theory, and it’s tiresome and a nuisance, and it will eventually end, I hope.”
Well it’s not like she could’ve lied to the feds, riiiiiight?