United States federal prosecutors dropped their investigation of Lance Armstrong last night, ending a two-year effort aimed at determining whether the seven-time Tour de France winner and his team-mates participated in a doping program.
Armstrong has steadfastly denied he doped during his career, but the possibility of criminal charges threatened to stain his legacy and could have cast a shadow over his cancer charity work. "This is great news," Armstrong's attorney, 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 investigation was centred in Los Angeles where a grand jury was presented with evidence by federal prosecutors and heard testimony from Armstrong's former team-mates and associates. It began with a separate investigation of Rock Racing, a cycling team owned by fashion entrepreneur Michael Ball.
Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title after failing a drugs test, claimed Armstrong had a long-running doping system in place while they were team-mates. Fellow US rider Tyler Hamilton said he saw Armstrong use EPO during the 1999 Tour and in preparation for the 2000 and 2001 Tours.
United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr announced in a press release yesterday that 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." He did not disclose the reason for the decision.