If you believed in Lance Armstrong through all the mud-slinging, government leaks and “60 Minutes” disclosures, I suppose you feel vindicated today.
Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles told the Associated Press that they've closed a criminal investigation into doping allegations against the 7-time Tour de France winner.
A statement from the U.S. attorney's office said Armstrong would not be criminally charged, but did not explain why. This is a breaking story as I write this; I expect more explanation will follow at VeloNews or CyclingNews.
Apparently Armstrong isn't free and clear yet, however. US Anti Doping Agency head Travis Tygert said they are still pursuing their investigation.
“Unlike the U.S. Attorney, USADA’s job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws. Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation.”
Bear in mind that the feds were investigating whether Armstrong and teammates committed fraud by using sponsorship money from US Postal Service to pay for doping.
Los Angeles had been the site of a federal grand jury taking testimony from Armstrong associates, including cycling teammates, regarding the allegations.
Armstrong maintained that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs, and reminded doubters that he had never failed a drug test.
After the announcement, Armstrong's attorney said his client was happy with the decision and can “devote his time and energy to Livestrong and the causes that have defined his career.”
The feds launched the probe in 2010 shortly after former pro cyclist Floyd Landis announced that he saw Armstrong take performance enhancing drugs while they were teammates on the US Postal Service team. Landis also admitted at the time that he had lied about his own innocence in his doping scandal in the 2006 Tour de France that led to his downfall.
The case was fraught with leaks, so many that Armstrong's attorneys went to court to curb them.
Landis wasn't the only cyclist to publicly link Armstrong to doping. Former teammate Tyler Hamilton went on “60 Minutes” last spring and said he Armstrong took EPO, an illegal blood supplement.
That episode of “60 Minutes” also reported that George Hincapie also told the federal grand jury that he and Armstrong took performance enhancing drugs. Hincapie said he never spoke to “60 Minutes”, and that he didn't know where they got their information.
I don't know how much the fact that the feds aren't going to level charges against Armstrong will settle the arguments over whether Armstrong doped during his career.
I'm sure that Armstrong supporters will say, “I told you so,” and Lance haters will that Armstrong has skated again, just like he'd done in previous occasions.