The Associated Press has reported today that the nearly two-year long federal investigation into allegations of doping by Lance Armstrong has come to a conclusion without any charges being filed.
A press release from United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. stated his office "is closing an investigation into allegations of federal criminal conduct by members and associates of a professional bicycle racing team owned in part by Lance Armstrong."
That team was the US Postal Service team, which was sponsored by the independent agency of the US federal government from 1996 through 2004, supporting the team through five of Armstrong's record seven consecutive Tour de France victories. The investigation into systematic doping within the team arose partly out of allegations made by former rider Floyd Landis in 2010.
The federal government's interest arose from the possibility that doping programs, funded through government-supplied sponsorship dollars, could constitute fraud. The Food and Drug Adminstration's Jeff Novitzky was appointed to head up the investigation, the same man responsible for pursuing the BALCO steroids scandal.
Normally grand jury investigations would not be publicized if they failed to result in charges, but Birotte decided to make a public statement about the investigation's end due to numerous reports about the supposedly secret investigation in the press.
"This is great news," Armstrong's spokesman Mark Fabiani said in a statement. "Lance is pleased that the United States Attorney made the right decision, and he is more determined than ever to devote his time and energy to Livestrong and to the causes that have defined his career."
The case may not be concluded for Armstrong, however, as the US Anti-doping Agency (USADA) has announced that it is "looking forward to obtaining the information" which was gathered through the grand jury investigation.
CEO of USADA, Travis Tygart indicated that today's decision by the US Attorney may help his agency pursue Armstrong on doping violations..
"Unlike the U.S. Attorney, USADA’s job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws," read the statement from Tygart. "Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation."
That information includes the statements of several of Armstrong's former teammates and staff members, including Tyler Hamilton, who later appeared on the television news show "60 Minutes" with details about the doping at US Postal including an eye witness account of Armstrong using EPO.
A doping sanction based upon "non-analytical positives" is not unprecedented: Former Rock Racing rider Kayle Leogrande, whose home was searched in an early part of the same investigation that involved the USPS team, was given a two-year suspension based upon anecdotal evidence from his team and associates.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for more details as they emerge.
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