Federal Prosecutors Close Case Against Lance Armstrong

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02/4/2012| 0 comments
by AP and Roadcycling.com
Lance Armstrong. Photo Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Lance Armstrong. Photo Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Federal Prosecutors Close Case Against Lance Armstrong

Federal prosecutors dropped their investigation of Lance Armstrong today, ending a nearly two-year effort aimed at determining whether the seven-time Tour de France winner and his teammates participated in a doping program.

Federal prosecutors dropped their investigation of Lance Armstrong today, ending a nearly two-year effort aimed at determining whether the seven-time Tour de France winner and his teammates participated in a doping program.

Armstrong has steadfastly denied he doped during his unparalleled career, but the possibility of criminal charges threatened to stain his legacy as the world's greatest cyclist and could have cast a shadow over his cancer charity work.

"This is great news," Armstrong attorney Mark Fabiani said in a statement. "Lance is pleased that the United States Attorney made the right decision, and he is more determined than ever to devote his time and energy to Livestrong and to the causes that have defined his career."

The probe, anchored in Los Angeles where a grand jury was presented evidence by federal prosecutors and heard testimony from Armstrong's former teammates and associates, began with a separate investigation of Rock Racing, a cycling team owned by fashion entrepreneur Michael Ball.

U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. announced in a press release that his office "is closing an investigation into allegations of federal criminal conduct by members and associates of a professional bicycle racing team owned in part by Lance Armstrong."

He didn't disclose the reason for the decision, though Birotte has used discretion in pursing high-profile criminal cases before. Last February, his office closed an investigation of mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp.

The pronouncement comes after a pair of less-than-successful cases against top athletes accused of doping. Home run king Barry Bonds was found guilty of obstruction of justice and sentenced in December to 30 days' home detention -- a conviction he's appealing -- but prosecutors were unable to convince a jury he lied about using steroids. Roger Clemens' steroid trial is slated for April 17 after a judge declared a mistrial last summer when prosecutors showed jurors inadmissible evidence.

Investigators looked at whether a doping program was established for Armstrong's team while, at least part of the time, they received government sponsorship from the U.S. Postal Service. They also examined whether Armstrong encouraged or facilitated doping on the team.

The hurdle for prosecutors wasn't so much to prove whether any particular cyclist used drugs, but to determine if Armstrong and other team members violated federal conspiracy, fraud or racketeering charges. Unlike Bonds and Clemens, who testified before a federal grand jury and Congress, respectively, and were accused of lying under oath, Armstrong was not questioned in front of the grand jury.

Armstrong won the Tour de France every year from 1999-2005.

Betsy Andreu, who with her husband and former Armstrong teammate, Frank, accused the cycling champion of doping, said she was shocked by Birotte's decision.

"Our legal system failed us," she said. "This is what happens when you have a lot of money and you can buy attorneys who have people in high places in the Department of Justice."

Led by federal agent Jeff Novitzky, who also investigated Bonds and Clemens, U.S. authorities sought assistance overseas, requesting urine samples of U.S. Postal riders from France's anti-doping agency and also meeting with officials from

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