Did U.S. attorneys disagree on whether to close Armstrong, U.S. Postal case?

The Wall Street Journal has alleged there was some debate within the US Attorney's Office as to whether the two-year investigation into allegations of fraud and doping that involved the U.S. Postal Service Team and Lance Armstrong should have been closed last week. Armstrong has denied ever taking performance enhancing and welcomed the decision to close the case. He may still face investigation from USADA.

The report follows US radio station National Public Radio (NPR) revelations that sources in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Postal Service were 'shocked, surprised and angered' and that federal authorities only had 30 minutes notice before the United States Attorney's Office issued a press release to the media on Friday afternoon.

U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. is believed to have informed investigators from the FDA, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service Office of his decision, the timing of which has been brought into question by NPR. Meantime Justice Department officials in Washington were also aware of Birotte's decision, according to a source.

In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, Thom Mrozek explained: "In this office in essentially every significant investigation, a prosecution memo is prepared prior to a charging decision to outline the legal theories, the evidence, and the strengths and weaknesses of a particular case. That in fact was done in this case," he said. Mrozek cadded that "the prosecution memo was provided to the U.S. attorney and his management team well in advance of the final decision and…was thoroughly reviewed and discussed prior to the decision."

The report then goes on to suggest that Birotte was unwilling to consult with his team further on the matter, saying "that his decision was final and that there would be no discussion" according to a source "close to the investigation".

The two assistant U.S. attorneys in Los Angeles on the case, Douglas M. Miller and Mark Williams, declined to comment while Birotte could not be reached.

Cyclingnews spoke to a source who co-operated with the federal investigation. The source indicated that the NPR reports held weight.

"I talked to someone within the investigation but the reason why the case was shut down was due to a one-man decision. The evidence against those involved was absolutely overwhelming. They were going to be charged with a slew of crimes but for reasons unexplained he closed the case saying it wasn't open for discussion," the source said.


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