US Attorney’s office to weigh up request to pass over evidence in Armstrong/USPS investigation
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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

US Attorney’s office to weigh up request to pass over evidence in Armstrong/USPS investigation

by Shane Stokes at 12:04 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
NPR suggests federal agents felt they were close to indictments

US Department of JusticeAfter both USADA and WADA made it clear in recent days that they were seeking access to the evidence gathered in the US Postal Service/Lance Armstrong investigation, the office of United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. has given a response to questions about the issue.

“If we receive a formal request for information or evidence gathered during our investigation, we will consider the request in light of our obligations under DOJ [Department of Justice – ed.] policy and federal law and respond accordingly,” Public Affairs officer Thom Mrozek told VeloNation. He added that he was speaking on behalf of Birotte.

The answer didn’t indicate the likely course of action, but rather stated that a decision would be taken at a later point.

The long-running federal investigation was unexpectedly dropped on Friday, with the near two-year enquiry into the team brought to an end by Birotte. His department issued a statement at the time, but didn’t articulate the reason for his decision.

“The United States Attorney determined that a public announcement concerning the closing of the investigation was warranted by numerous reports about the investigation in media outlets around the world,” it stated.

“Mr. Birotte commended the joint investigative efforts of his prosecutors and special agents with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Service - Office of the Inspector General.”

Asked to elaborate on the reason for the action, Mrozek declined to do so yesterday evening. “We will not discuss our deliberations concerning the decision,” he told VeloNation.

Varied reaction, reports of investigators’ discontent:


In the hours and days since the decision, reaction has been varied. Predictably, Armstrong welcomed the announcement, saying on Friday that “it is the right decision and I commend them for reaching it.’ The UCI has also indicated satisfaction, with spokesman Enrico Carpani telling VeloNation that the sport must look forward, not back.

“We don’t want to live with a very difficult relationship with the past. What happened in the past happened in the past,” he said. “We prefer looking into the future.”

As regards those who were driving the investigation, federal agent Jeff Novitzky has not yet commented, and neither have many others who were involved in pursuing evidence. Novitzky is however reported by several sources as being greatly frustrated by the decision to drop the case and, according to NPR’s Tom Goldman, it seems that others may also feel the same way.

“Sources who know about the case say that within the agencies involved in the investigation, the FBI, the FDA, the US Postal Service, there is surprise, even shock and anger about the US Attorney’s decision,” he said on today’s NPR sports news. “Those agencies reportedly only got about a half hour notice that the decision was going to be announced. And this was after there had been indications that prosecutors were preparing to indict Armstrong and others on federal crimes, including mail fraud, drug distribution, wire fraud, witness tampering.

“Those indictments were said to be coming soon, maybe even next month. One source said there were absolutely no weaknesses in the case. On the other hand, I was told by a person with knowledge of the decision that the US Attorney didn’t agree there was sufficient evidence of federal crimes. The person also said that while this announcement came quickly, the US Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. struggled with the decision.”

What’s clear is that USADA and WADA plan to keep working on the anti-doping end of things in order to determine whether or not rules were broken. “Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation,” said its CEO Travis T. Tygart on Friday.

WADA’s David Howman echoed this when speaking to VeloNation on Saturday, and the agency’s president did likewise today.

“Who knows what might be there?” John Fahey said in relation to the work done thus far, according to the Daily Telegraph. “There has been significant evidence taken on anti-doping areas, on what may have occurred in the way of doping. It would be very, very helpful if that information was handed over.

“The United States anti-doping organisation is keen to get hold of that evidence and we would like to see that happen because there could well be some very relevant information there.”

What’s clear is that while the federal investigation may have ended due to Birotte’s decision, that there is more left to the matter. The final stage of the long-running contest hasn’t yet taken place.

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