WASHINGTON, Feb 6, 2013 (AFP) – 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
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 centered 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
“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.
“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
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
$12 million 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 $5 million 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.