Is Lance Armstrong guilty of suborning perjury?

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Question

Some of Lance Armstrong's ex-teammates are saying he told them they had to use performance-enhancing drugs to stay on the team. A lot of them did and were later questioned by authorities. If Armstrong pressured them to dope so that they would be less likely to testify against him (because of their own crimes), is that suborning perjury?

Answer

That depends. Suborning perjury occurs when someone threatens or otherwise induces a witness to lie while testifying under oath. So, the answer to your question rests on whether Armstrong induced his ex-teammates to lie under oath.

Armstrong denies that he either used performance-enhancing substances or that he pressured teammates to do so. But, let’s assume for this discussion that Armstrong did threaten his teammates with expulsion from the team if they didn’t use EPO, testosterone, or other performance boosters. Whether Armstrong suborned perjury depends on two things:

1. Armstrong’s intention when he pressured his teammates to use performance-enhancing drugs; and,

2. Whether his ex-teammates lied under oath.

For more information on suborning perjury, see Suborning Perjury.

Threatened Expulsion

Let’s assume that Armstrong was using performance-enhancing substances himself and his teammates knew it. Let’s further assume that he pressured his teammates to take substances that he was taking and break the law themselves, so that they would be too intimidated to testify against him. By law, the person suborning perjury does not have to explicitly threaten a witness; it is enough to apply pressure to induce a witness to lie under oath. It is a bit of a stretch, but a prosecutor could argue that Armstrong’s pressure on his teammates to use drugs was really an inducement to keep them from testifying honestly against him under oath.

Teammates Testifying Under Oath

Of course, any pressure applied by Armstrong would not matter unless the ex-teammates actually committed perjury. Remember, perjury is lying under oath. If, as in the baseball doping scandal, the cyclists testified under oath before Congressional committee hearings and lied about Armstrong’s drug use, then the second part of suborning perjury would be satisfied. If, however, the cyclists only told lies to investigators and were not under oath at the time, they would not have committed perjury. Armstrong cannot suborn perjury where no perjury was committed.

Public Denials

You may also wonder whether, if Armstrong actually doped, he committed perjury by making many public statements denying it. That depends on whether he made these denials while testifying under oath in an official proceeding. Perjury occurs only when a witness testifies falsely under oath. Armstrong’s statements to the press are not perjury because they are not statements made by a witness testifying under oath.

Of course, as Armstrong may be discovering, perjury and suborning perjury are not the only problems that can befall a person whose statements are contradicted by other people. He has a lawyer; if you have more personal questions about perjury or suborning perjury, you should also see a lawyer.

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