Cycling teams glad probe over

Published: Monday, Feb. 6, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Monday, Feb. 6, 2012 - 7:01 am

DOHA, Qatar – Cycling teams at the Tour of Qatar welcomed the end of a U.S. federal investigation into Lance Armstrong, saying Sunday they hoped the seven-time Tour de France champion finally could move on with his life.

Federal prosecutors dropped their investigation of Armstrong on Friday, ending a nearly two-year effort to determine whether he and his teammates were involved in doping. Armstrong has long denied doping and said he was "gratified" by the decision.

Laurenzo Lapage, the Greenedge cycling sporting director who worked with Armstrong on the U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams from 2003 to 2007, said the decision reaffirmed what most colleagues of Armstrong had long believed: He isn't a doper.

"Everyone who knows Lance and was racing and working with him knew this before," Lapage said as his team prepared for the first stage of the Tour of Qatar.

"It was not a surprise for anyone. It's a good feeling that the truth is out now," Lapage said.

"The guy had a lot of success, and a lot of people were jealous. … People tried to break him down with lies, and it is a really good thing everything (is) over for him now. He did a lot of great things for cycling. It is his moment to live in peace."

Johnny Weltz, the sporting director of the American team Garmin-Barracuda who rode with Armstrong on the Motorola team in 1995, said Armstrong was an easy target.

"The people who (made) these charges, they wanted to be Lance and didn't manage it," Weltz said. "So, OK, you can hit him in another way. These aren't the right people to judge. For us and cycling, it was best that it was a federal investigation. They had no knowledge up front and no past in the sport. I think most justice happens that way."

Several riders, including world sprint champion Mark Cavendish and former Armstrong teammate Yaroslav Popovych, refused to discuss the Armstrong matter. Officials from Popovych's Radioshack-Nissan team also declined comment.

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