Will Lance Armstrong Go to Jail?
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Stencil graffiti depicts Lance Armstrong in yellow jersey with IV drip
Oct. 10, 2012
-- The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is detailing its doping file on seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong. In August, Armstrong decided to drop his fight against more than a decade of charges that he doped during his career. After Armstrong's announcement, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said it would ban the cyclist for life and recommend he be stripped of all his Tour de France titles. The agency contends Armstrong and five former cycling team associates engaged in a doping conspiracy from 1998 to 2011. Saying that fighting the charges was taking time away from his family and his cause raising money for cancer research, Armstrong said, "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough,'" Armstrong said in a statement. "For me, that time is now." Armstrong retired from cycling in February 2011. The 39-year-old athlete from Texas had initially retired from cycling in 2005, but returned in 2009 to finish third in the Tour his first year back. Here, Armstrong surges during the final stage of the 1999 Tour de France -- the first of his Tour wins.
Armstrong won the Tour de France for a record-setting seven consecutive years from 1999 to 2005. Here Armstrong leads the pack as they climb the Col de la Croix de Fer during the10th stage of the 1999 Tour de France.
When he returned to the sport in 2009 at age 37, he said it was partly to promote cancer awareness through his charity Livestrong. Armstrong was known for his grit and extreme competitive spirit. Here he leads Christophe Moreau of France during the 13th stage of the 2000 Tour de France.
Armstrong's comeback from cancer and his consistent victories quickly made him a fan favorite. Here Armstrong is surrounded by fans on the Champs Elysees after winning the 2001 Tour de France.
Armstrong's storied career is not without controversy. Although he has never failed a drug doping test, rumors about alleged use of illegal substances to improve his performance have dogged him throughout his career. Here, Armstrong listens to the U.S. national anthem in front of the Arc de Triomphe during the podium ceremony of the 2001 Tour de France.
Former teammate Floyd Landis, who confessed to doping himself, has said that Armstrong systematically used performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong has continued to deny the claims, saying via his Twitter account last month: "I look forward to being vindicated." Here, media surrounds seven-time Tour de France champion after Stage 5 of the Tour Down Under on Jan. 24, 2009, in Australia.
Lance Armstrong at home in Austin, Texas, with one of his racing bikes Nov. 19, 2008.
During the peak of his career, Armstrong managed to escape any serious injury from crashes, which can be common in the sport. But he did go down during this July 21, 2003 Tour de France race after his handlebars caught on a plastic bag carried by a spectator.
RadioShack team rider Lance Armstrong during the 16th stage of the 2010 Tour de France. Due to falls -- and likely age -- Armstrong failed to repeat his performance after returning to the sport in 2009.
Marianna Day Massey/ZUMA/Corbis
Armstrong's charity to promote cancer awareness, Livestrong, has raised more than $400 million. Part of the foundation's drive has included selling these rubber wristbands, made by Nike. At times the wristbands became ubiquitous, with many celebrities wearing the gold bands, including Bono, Alec Baldwin, Bruce Willis, Robin Williams, Matt Damon and Ben Stiller.
Armstrong mixed quite intimately with at least one celebrity when he was engage for a period to rock singer Sheryl Crow. Here the couple are shown after Armstrong won the team time trial fourth stage of the 2005 Tour de France. The pair called it quits in 2006.
Armstrong drives on during the 12th stage of the 2002 Tour de France. He would win the stage and the Tour -- again. While the record books soon will likely no longer reflect that Armstrong ever won a Tour de France, Armstrong claims he is at peace with his legacy. "I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours...Nobody can ever change that," he said.
Lance Armstrong’s legal journey took another spin this week, as anti-doping authorities said the fallen cycling star finally agreed to spill the beans under oath, while ABC News reported that Armstrong still faces charges of witness tampering and obstruction. Legal experts say if the latter charges are true, Armstrong is in big trouble.
“If he were convicted of obstruction of justice or witness tampering in the federal system, he would face jail time,” said Matthew Cannon, a former supervisory assistant U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois. “But it’s pretty difficult to get that conviction. It is very fact-driven.”
During his seven years, Cannon convicted contractors who were bilking the U.S. government during the Iraq war. “We had a witness tampering conviction, but we had the whole meeting on tape,” said Cannon, who recently joined the Chicago firm of Greenberg Traurig, LLP.
In February 2012, the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles dropped a two-year probe against Armstrong, despite grand jury testimony by Armstrong’s former teammates and associates on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team. This week, sources told ABC News that another office of the Department of Justice was moving forward on charges that Armstrong bullied witnesses who were testifying against him. Obstruction of justice is the “frustration of governmental purposes by violence, corruption, destruction of evidence, or deceit,” according to the Congressional Research Service.
Former teammate Tyler Hamilton has said that Armstrong threatened him in an Aspen restaurant in 2011 before he testified about his role in doping. There have also been reports that Armstrong threatened the wives of two former teammates, one via text message. Still, Cannon says the bar is pretty high.
“One person’s word is not going to be what prosecutors are going to indict somebody on,” Cannon said. “They are probably going to be looking for more than that.”
The feds have a mixed record in pursuing athlete/dopers.
Pitcher Roger Clemens was acquitted in 2012 after two trials on perjury charges for lying about his use of steroids.
Slugger Barry Bonds was convicted in 2011 of obstruction, but acquitted on three perjury charges of lying before a grand jury investigating steroids. He got probation.
Track cyclist Tammy Thomas was convicted of felony perjury and obstruction of justice in 2008. She got probation.
Olympic sprinter Marion Jones spent six months in jail on a perjury conviction in 2008 after lying about her use of performance-enhancing drugs to a federal grand jury.
Armstrong may face a similar legal path, even though the final outcome is still unclear.
“The bigger danger (for Armstrong) is the risk of perjury,” said Charles Pelkey, a defense attorney and cycling journalist based in Laramie, Wyo.
If Armstrong confesses under oath to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in order to reduce his lifetime cycling ban, and that contradicts his earlier statements to the federal government, he could face perjury charges, according to both Pelkey and Cannon.