Cycling

Agents investigating Armstrong

2013-02-06 20:22
Lance Armstrong (AFP)

Washington - US federal agents are actively investigating disgraced former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong on possible crimes beyond issues they chose not to pursue last year, ABC News reported on Wednesday.

The broadcaster cited an unnamed source saying agents are probing whether the US cyclist had ever obstructed justice, tampered with or intimidated witnesses, different charges than those previously examined at a federal level.

US Attorney Andre Birotte, who led the federal probe that was dropped last year, said on Tuesday he had no plans to press charges despite Armstrong's recent doping admissions, but he did not definitively rule out such action.

Birotte's investigation was centred on doping, fraud and conspiracy and Armstrong's denials of such crimes when he was the lead rider in the extremely successful government-funded US Postal Service Team.

"Obviously we've been well aware of the statements that have been made by Mr Armstrong and other media reports," Birotte said, referring to Armstrong's bombshell doping confession to chat show legend Oprah Winfrey last month.

"That has not changed my view at this time. Obviously we'll consider - we'll continue to look at the situation," Birotte told reporters in Washington.

The ABC News source, quoted on condition of anonymity, said: "Birotte does not speak for the federal government as a whole. Agents are actively investigating Armstrong for obstruction, witness tampering and intimidation."

For years Armstrong denied doping, but he was banned last year after the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) gathered compelling testimony that he had been the ring-leader of a large-scale and highly-organized doping conspiracy.

After the cyclist's televised confession last month, former Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton opened the door to possible witness tampering issues in an interview with CBS News broadcast last month as part of a "60 Minutes" story with USADA chief Travis T. Tygart.

Hamilton told CBS that he was confronted by Armstrong in 2011 only three weeks after a prior interview with "60 Minutes" aired in which Hamilton made revelations similar to his grand jury testimony against Armstrong.

Hamilton told CBS he was in a crowded bar in Aspen, Colorado when Armstrong approached him.

"Turned to my right and it was Lance Armstrong," Hamilton said. "Stops me cold. First he asked how much 60 Minutes had paid me to do that interview. Obviously, nothing.

"The biggest thing he said is, 'You know, we're going to make your life a living, f-ing hell, both in the courtroom and out.'"

Hamilton said he felt intimidated by Armstrong and, at that moment, Hamilton was a witness against Armstrong in what was an active federal investigation.

Armstrong was given a Wednesday deadline to come clean under oath about his doping activities, and others who were involved in the cheating conspiracy, in order to have any hope of USADA reducing his lifetime ban from competition.

Armstrong attorney Tim Herman told USA Today that Armstrong would not meet that deadline, saying his client wants to testify under oath to the International Cycling Union (UCI). USADA's evidence showed UCI officials might have turned a blind eye to enable Armstrong's doping scheme.

Armstrong faces other legal battles after being stripped last year of his record seven Tour de France titles, one of them a fraud lawsuit by ex-teammate Floyd Landis, who lost a Tour title of his own for doping.

Dallas insurance company SCA Promotions has already demanded the return of $12m in bonuses it paid to the disgraced Texas rider for achieving five consecutive Tour victories.

SCA attorney Jeff Dorough told AFP that the firm expected to file a lawsuit against the 41-year-old as early as Wednesday.

SCA withheld a $5m bonus due after Armstrong's sixth Tour de France win in 2004 because of doping allegations circulating in Europe.

Armstrong took them to court and won the case because SCA's original contract had no stipulations about doping.

"Both he and his lawyers almost taunted us and said, 'If we are ever stripped of those titles, we will give you the money back,'" SCA attorney Jeffrey Tillotson told CNN on Wednesday.

"I think, at that time, Mr Armstrong thought he would never be caught. Of course, he has been caught, exposed, confessed, admitted essentially to perjury. We ask him to finally live up to his word and give that money back."

Herman told USA Today that the shamed cyclist doesn't intend to pay back any of the money.

Read more on:    lance armstrong  |  cycling
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