Months after Lance Armstrong's attorney sought an investigation of federal government leaks to the establishment media, U.S. attorneys have ended their investigation of the cycling champion.
United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. capitulated in a press conference today, announcing 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."
Birotte failed to specify his reasons for closing down the investigation into claims of blood doping. Since July, Armstrong attorney Mark Fabiani has been demanding an investigation to find whether prosecutors were actively leaking damaging details to reporters.
Armstrong, who survived advanced testicular cancer at age 25 but went on to win the Tour de France seven times and date Sheryl Crow, was targeted not only by the federal government but by 60 Minutes. Anchorman Scott Pelley devoted nearly an hour of broadcast time and several "Overtimes" to hawking an anti-Armstrong interview with cyclist Tyler Hamilton, an admitted serial doper whose Olympic gold medal has been revoked. (Armstrong during his career passed 24 unannounced tests for performance-enhancement violations.)
"Blood doping" is a process of concentrating red blood cells so that your blood will somehow be more vigorous than that of other cyclists, who presumably must make do with whatever hemotherapeutic benefits can be derived from eating liver and oysters. Although doping once required an uncomfortable process of blood extraction and transfusion, advances since the 1980s have made it easier and more convenient.
I have never met Lance Armstrong and have no particular feelings about him. Although I find his public persona more agreeable than those of the only other cyclists I can name – Floyd Landis and Greg LeMond – Armstrong was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service, a legally protected monopoly that should not require any advertising. As far as I'm concerned, the only Tour de France winner who matters is Pee Wee Herman.
But I do wonder why the squares went after him with such a vengeance. U.S. attorneys have broad discretion to pick their targets. So does 60 Minutes. What possible upside did they see in tearing down a beloved athlete and cancer activist?