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.
Belgium, Spain and Italy.
Prosecutors also subpoenaed Armstrong supporters and ex-teammates to testify in Los Angeles. Among them were Ukrainian cyclist Yaroslav Popovych, who rode on three Armstrong teams dating back to 2005; Allen Lim, an exercise physiologist for Team Radioshack; and longtime Armstrong friend Stephanie McIlvain.
The investigation began after Novitzky was told about a cache of performance-enhancing drugs found by a landlord in the vacated apartment of Kyle Leogrande, a cyclist who rode for Rock Racing and had a doping ban, according to several people familiar with the case.
The case also was spurred by disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis, who claims Armstrong had a long-running doping system in place while they were teammates. Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for drug use, acknowledged in 2010 he used performance-enhancing drugs after years of denying he cheated.
One of the most serious accusations came during a "60 Minutes" interview last May when former teammate Tyler Hamilton said he saw Armstrong use EPO during the 1999 Tour de France and in preparation for the 2000 and 2001 tours.
The report also said Armstrong loyalist George Hincapie, another ex-teammate, told federal authorities that he and Armstrong supplied each other with performance-enhancing drugs and discussed them. Hincapie released a statement after the segment aired, saying he did not speak with the show and didn't know where it got its information.
U.S. anti-doping officials said Friday they will not be dissuaded by the government's decision to close the Armstrong probe.
"Unlike the U.S. Attorney, USADA's job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws," said Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. "Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation."
As the investigation progressed, Armstrong assembled a legal team, hired a spokesman and briefly created a website to address any of the allegations reported by the media.
Frustrated by a slew of news articles about the investigation, Armstrong's attorneys filed a motion in July, asking a judge to order federal agents to testify about their contacts with reporters.
Some legal experts said it's rare for federal prosecutors to announce they are no longer pursuing criminal charges against someone, and wondered if Armstrong's stature may have played a role in the decision. Birotte noted in his announcement the intense media interest in the case.
"The government always has a tremendous amount of prosecutorial discretion regarding whether or not to bring an indictment. In this case it appears that they have acted judiciously and likely considered all of the good works of Lance Armstrong and his foundation," said Mathew Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor who is not involved in the case.