Lance Armstrong

US prosecutors have no plans to charge Lance Armstrong

Attorney says criminal charges are not on the agenda at the moment despite Armstrong confessing to doping in his Tour de France wins

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 February, 2013, 3:29am

US prosecutors say they have no plans to press criminal charges against drug cheat Lance Armstrong, despite his confession that he owes his Tour de France victories to illegal doping.

US Attorney Andre Birotte, who led a federal investigation into the disgraced rider, did not definitively rule out action, but said Armstrong's public admission had not yet changed the decision not to prosecute.

"We made a decision on that case, I believe, a little over a year ago," he said, when asked about the federal inquiry into long-standing claims that Armstrong ran a doping programme and lied to federal agents.

"Obviously we've been well aware of the statements that have been made by Mr Armstrong and other media reports," he said, referring to Armstrong's bombshell 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, but that hasn't changed our view as I stand here today," Birotte said.

However, the 41-year-old Texan faces other legal battles after being stripped last year of his record seven Tour de France titles.

Dallas insurance company SCA Promotions has already demanded the return of US$12 million in bonuses it paid to Armstrong for multiple Tour victories, and SCA attorney Jeff Dorough said the firm expected to file a lawsuit against Armstrong as early as today.

SCA withheld a US$5 million bonus due after Armstrong's sixth Tour de France win in 2004 because of doping allegations circulating in Europe, and Armstrong took them to court.

He won the case because SCA's original contract had no stipulations about doping, and Armstrong attorney Tim Herman told USA Today that the shamed cyclist didn't intend to pay back any of the money.

"My only point is no athlete ever, to my understanding, has gone back and paid back his compensation," Herman told the newspaper.

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

While Armstrong told Winfrey he would like to get his lifetime ban reduced so that he could eventually compete in marathons, for example, Herman said the cyclist was now prepared to co-operate with anti-doping authorities in a bid to clean up the sport, even if his eligibility isn't restored.

"Whether it's a truth and reconciliation commission or some comprehensive attempt to clean things up, it doesn't make any difference as long as something like that is convened," Herman said. "Lance will definitely cooperate."

Herman told the newspaper that Armstrong didn't believe that Usada was best-placed to lead the battle against doping in cycling, because the sport is largely based in Europe.

Nor has Usada chief Travis Tygart's claim that Armstrong lied in some of his comments to Winfrey eased relations between the two parties.

"To hear Tygart tell it, Lance Armstrong is responsible for the culture he was dropped into on a team [that] was engaged in misconduct long before he got to the team," Herman said.

"He was a 19-year-old kid dropped in this culture, just like everybody else. He didn't create it," he said.