Lance Armstrong could face US legal action after confession

Lance Armstrong

The US government can take Lance Armstrong to court once the fallen cycling hero publicly admits to doping, experts and people familiar with the matter say.

Armstrong is said to have come clean about his use of performance-enhancing drugs in an interview with Oprah Winfrey set to air on Thursday, his first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last year. Until now Armstrong, 41, had strenuously denied doping allegations for several years, even after a 1,000-page report by the US Anti-Doping Agency put him at the heart of the greatest doping scandal in the annals of cycling.

"Because he has now admitted he doped, that makes it a lot easier to prove a fraud claim," said sports lawyer Brian Socolow. "Given that he has now said that he did use performance-enhancing drugs, the government is given the opportunity to reopen an investigation."

Peter Keane, a law professor at Golden Gate University, said Armstrong could face criminal prosecution over the government sponsorship he received while riding on the US Postal team from 1998-2004. "I'm talking about money, lots of money. I'm talking about liberty," he told AFP.

The interview was Armstrong's first since he was stripped of his Tour de France titles and came after more than a decade of vigorous denials that he had used banned substances to win his way into the history books. In terms of potential criminal charges, the case has enough of a high profile for the government to consider prosecuting Armstrong for fraud, over millions of dollars of public sponsorship, and for perjury, after his denials under oath, according to Socolow of New York firm Loeb & Loeb. In terms of civil charges, the Justice Department has

until Thursday to join a lawsuit filed in 2010 by Armstrong's former teammate Floyd Landis to recuperate public funds disbursed to his US Postal team, a source close to the matter said.

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