Cycling

Lance no criminal - expert

2012-06-14 23:00
Lance Armstrong (File)

Washington - Lance Armstrong could be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles but won't likely face criminal charges or fines in a probe of new doping allegations, a sports law professor said on Thursday.

The Washington Post was among media outlets that reported on Wednesday that the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) had written to Armstrong saying blood samples taken from him in 2009 and 2010 - when he came out of retirement - were "fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions."

"All of his Tour de France victories would be at stake, he could lose them. However he's not in any danger of being charged criminally or having to pay any fines, based on what we know," Vermont University sports law professor Michael McCann told AFP.

"This is more about a case that goes to his reputation rather than any type of criminal wrongdoing," McCann said in an interview.

McCann noted that USADA, which is investigating Armstrong, "doesn't have the power of indictment."

And, he said, the US justice department is unlikely to reopen its two-year probe that ended in February without any criminal charges being brought. "I think that moment passed."

Armstrong finished third in the Tour de France in June of 2009 and 23rd in the event in 2010.

Since retiring again from cycling last year, Armstrong has taken up triathlon competition, but USADA's action immediately bans him from competing.

According to the Post, USADA claims it has witnesses to the fact that Armstrong and five former cycling team associates -- including Italian doctor Michele Ferrari and cycling team manager Johan Bruyneel -- engaged in a doping conspiracy from 1998-2011.

Armstrong, however, said the witnesses cited by USADA were the same ones who spoke to federal investigators previously.

McCann said USADA was pressed to launch its investigation now because "the statute of limitations was going to run out for the US anti-doping agency to try to punish him (Armstrong)."

"That's why it's happening now," he said. Armed with new information, USADA also probably "feels that its case is the strongest right now."

Armstrong, who won the Tour de France from 1999-2005 and used his fame to fuel his charitable work for cancer awareness, has never tested positive.

But he has been publicly accused by former teammates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton -- both admitted drugs cheats -- of doping.

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