One of San Francisco’s most famous and successful tech financiers, Thomas Weisel, has been linked to the Lance Armstrong blood-doping investigation, reveals Matt Smith of SF Weekly.Weisel, who founded the tech boutique Montgomery Securities and now runs Thomas Weisel Partners, owned the “Tailwind” company that managed Lance Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service cycling team–the one that Armstrong was riding for when he became the most decorated champion in the history of the sport.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Weisel built Montgomery Securities into a tech and growth-company powerhouse and then sold it to Bank of America for hundreds of millions of dollars near the top of the tech boom. He then founded Thomas Weisel Partners, which is one of the next-generation of boutique investment banks focused on tech and other growth companies.
In Sunday’s devastating 60 Minutes investigation, a former teammate of Armstrong’s, Tyler Hamilton, described when he first began taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs, which was back in 1997, before Armstrong joined the team.Hamilton was already a member of the team that would become the US Postal Service team. In those days, the team was called “Montgomery-Bell,” and it was owned by Thomas Weisel.
In the 60 Minutes interview, Hamilton explained tha, when he joined the team, the best riders were already doping. At first, Hamilton wasn’t among those given drugs, but then eventually he was:
Hamilton told us that doping was happening on the U.S. Postal Service
team before Armstrong joined. The best riders got special treatment.
“I remember seeing some of the stronger guys in the team getting handed
these white lunch bags,” Hamilton said. “So finally I, you know,
started puttin’ two and two together and you know, basically there were
doping products in those white lunch bags.
You weren’t getting one in the beginning?” reporter Scott Pelley asked.
“No,” Hamilton said…
In 1997, Hamilton continued, he was approached by a Montgomery Bell team doctor, who recommended that he try a little “therapy.”
It was 1997 – Hamilton says he had never doped before, but now a team doctor said that he could make the Tour de France team if he used EPO.
“He recommended and thought it was a good idea for both the team, for myself, and for my health that I take some therapy as he called it. And that was, so he was … recommending that I take EPO,” Hamilton told Pelley.
“And inside the bag was what?” Pelley asked.
“In my lunch bag I got EPO. You know, other guys got other things such as growth hormone. I mean, it’s sad to say it, I was kinda willing and accepting of the lunch bag, but you know, in a way it was also an honour that, ‘Wow, like, they think I’m good enough to be with the ‘A’ team guys”…
According to SF Weekly, which broke the story about Weisel’s ties to the team, in the mid-1990s, Weisel was sick of losing money on his Montgomery-Bell team. The implication is that Weisel might have been responsible for, or condoned, or at least known about a systematic doping program for his team, which later went on to recruit Lance Armstrong and win a huge sponsorship from the US Postal Service.
The government is continuing to investigate the Lance Armstrong doping allegations, and it’s not clear what their ultimate goal is. But it seems possible that, if Tyler Hamilton’s story is accurate, and the Montgomery-Bell team did have a systematic doping program in the late 1990s, that Thomas Weisel might soon be facing some tough questions of his own.