Report: Feds "Actively Investigating" Lance Armstrong

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 6 2013 9:56 AM

The Feds May Not Be Done Investigating Lance Just Yet

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A stencil graffiti of Lance Armstrong in a yellow jersey, the traditional garb of the seven-time Tour De France winner

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

UPDATE: It looks as though U.S. attorney André Birotte may have spoken either too soon or out of turn yesterday when he suggested to reporters that there are no current plans to pursue criminal charges against Lance Armstrong in the wake of his high-profile doping confession. ABC News is reporting that "federal investigators are in the midst of an active criminal investigation" of the cyclist formerly known as a seven-time Tour de France winner:

[A] high level source told ABC News, "Birotte does not speak for the federal government as a whole." According to the source, who agreed to speak on the condition that his name and position were not used because of the sensitivity of the matter, "Agents are actively investigating Armstrong for obstruction, witness tampering and intimidation."
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No word on who, exactly, is leading the charge on the investigation, and odds would suggest that Armstrong may very well still got off scot-free in terms of criminal charges. Still, he faces a host of civil suits from ex-sponsors and a whistle-blower suit filed by former teammate Floyd Landis, so his legal trouble is far from over regardless of what the U.S. government decides to do.

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Original Post, Tuesday at 2:47 p.m.: Lance Armstrong's awkward, incomplete doping confession on national television won't result in criminal charges against the disgraced cyclist. U.S. attorney André Birotte told reporters today that the government had not changed its mind about possible charges in the wake of last month's two-part sitdown with Oprah Winfrey, via Reuters:

"We made a decision on that case a little over a year ago. Obviously, we've been well aware of the statements that have been made by Mr. Armstrong in other media reports. That does not change my view at this time," Birotte said at a news conference in Washington to announce an unrelated lawsuit against Standard & Poor's. The government will continue to look at the case, Birotte added, but Armstrong's admission "hasn't changed our view as I stand here today."

There had been some speculation that Armstrong, despite dodging a few questions, may have opened himself to possible charges of perjury and/or obstruction of justice during the interview. But, judging from Birotte's comments, the U.S. Attorney's Office doesn't see the value in pursuing this case any further. The office closed its criminal investigation of Armstrong roughly a year ago. The cyclist formerly known as a seven-time Tour de France winner still faces a civil whistle-blower lawsuit filed by former teammate (and fellow doper) Floyd Landis accusing Armstrong of fraud. The Justice Department has not yet said whether it intends to join that suit.

For more on why dopers are rarely prosecuted, check out Brian Palmer's "Explainer" on the topic from last October.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.