Lance Armstrong

The US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) has given disgraced American cyclist Lance Armstrong two more weeks to co-operate fully in an investigation into cycling’s darkest episode in return for a possible reduction of his life ban.

The extension comes on the same day it was reported that US Federal agents were investigating the disgraced cyclist and former sponsors SEC said they would sue him for $12 million (R107m) they paid him in bonuses.

Armstrong had initially been set a February 6 deadline by Usada to answer questions under oath, but that was extended on Wednesday after his attorney, Timothy Herman, said the timing for an interview could not be accommodated.

“We have been in communication with Mr Armstrong and his representatives and we understand that he does want to be part of the solution and assist in the effort to clean up the sport of cycling,” Usada chief executive, Travis Tygart, said.

“We have agreed to his request for an additional two weeks to work on details to hopefully allow for this to happen.”

After years of denials, Armstrong admitted in an interview with Oprah Winfrey last month that he had cheated his way to a record seven Tour de France titles with systematic use of banned, performance-enhancing drugs. Last year, he was stripped of his titles.

Armstrong, 41, said in his interview with Winfrey on her cable network OWN that the lifetime ban against him was like a “death penalty”.

Citing an unnamed source, ABC News reported on Wednesday that US federal agents were investigating him for crimes, including obstruction, witness tampering and intimidation. The probe is focused on different charges from those previously investigated.

US attorney, Andre Birotte, who led the federal probe that was dropped last year, said he had no plans to press charges despite Armstrong’s recent admissions, but he did not definitively rule out such action.

Sarah Clark-Lynn, a spokeswoman for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said the organisation, which deals with food and drug safety, was investigating Armstrong, but would not say on what grounds.

Birotte’s investigation was centred on doping, fraud and conspiracy and Armstrong’s denials of such crimes when he was the lead rider in the government-funded US Postal Service Team.

“Obviously we’ve been well aware of the statements that have been made by Mr Armstrong and other media reports,” Birotte said, referring to Armstrong’s Winfrey confession.

“That has not changed my view at this time. Obviously we’ll consider – we’ll continue to look at the situation,” Birotte told reporters in Washington.

The ABC News source, quoted on condition of anonymity, said: “Birotte does not speak for the federal government as a whole.

“Agents are actively investigating Armstrong for obstruction, witness tampering and intimidation.”

Dallas insurance company SCA Promotions attorney, Jeff Dorough, told CNN on Wednesday: “Both he and his lawyers almost taunted us and said, ‘If we are ever stripped of those titles, we will give you the money back’.

“I think, at that time, Mr Armstrong thought he would never be caught. We ask him to finally live up to his word and give that money back.”

Herman said Armstrong did not plan to repay the money. – Reuters, Sapa-AFP