LOS ANGELES — Federal prosecutors dropped their investigation of Lance Armstrong on Friday, ending a nearly two-year effort aimed at determining whether the seven-time Tour de France winner and his teammates participated in a doping program.
Armstrong has steadfastly denied he doped during his unparalleled career, but the possibility of criminal charges threatened to stain his legacy as the world's greatest cyclist and could have cast a shadow over his cancer charity work.
"I am gratified to learn that the U.S. Attorney's Office is closing its investigation," Armstrong said in a statement. "It is the right decision and I commend them for reaching it."
The probe, anchored in Los Angeles where a grand jury was presented evidence by federal prosecutors and heard testimony from Armstrong's former teammates and associates, began with a separate investigation of Rock Racing, a cycling team owned by fashion entrepreneur Michael Ball.
U.S. Attorney Andr Birotte Jr. announced in a press release 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."
He didn't disclose the reason for the decision, though Birotte has used discretion in pursing high-profile criminal cases before. Last February, his office closed an investigation of mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp.
Family Circle prize money increased: The Family Circle Cup is increasing its prize money and changing the number of qualifiers who make the main draw this season.
Officials for the women's clay court tournament in Charleston announced that the total purse will grow from $711,000 to $749,160. In addition, there will be 12 players qualifying for the main draw this season instead of eight.
The Family Circle Cup is April 2-8 at the Family Circle Tennis Center. The tournament is in its 40th season.
U.S. champ Abbott out with injury: Three-time U.S. figure skating champion Jeremy Abbott has withdrawn from next week's Four Continents because of a right hip injury.
Abbott was replaced Friday by Richard Dornbush, who finished 13th at last week's U.S. championships but was fifth in the free skate. Dornbush was the silver medalist at the 2010 U.S. championships and was the top U.S. skater at the world championships, finishing ninth.
Adam Rippon, who was second to Abbott at nationals, and Ross Miner, who was third, also will represent the United States.
Four Continents begins Thursday in Colorado Springs, Colo.