Cyclist Floyd Landis pleaded not guilty to wire fraud on Friday but made a deal with prosecutors who agreed to defer prosecution on condition he makes restitution to people from whom he raised money to fund his fight against doping charges.
Landis, a Temecula resident who lived and trained in San Diego, admitted to defrauding 1,765 people out of $478,354. As part of his agreement, he agreed to repay them in three years.
If he fails to repay, the U.S. attorney's office may pursue charges, which expose him to up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Landis spoke to news reporters outside the federal courthouse and refused to comment on the action USADA took Friday against former teammate Lance Armstrong.
"I am looking forward to the future for me and it doesn't involve cycling," Landis said.
When pressed to say something about Armstrong, Landis continued, "No, you guys can chat with him."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Halpern successfully urged U.S. Magistrate Judge Jan Alder to release Landis without bail.
"I think it's safe to say Mr. Landis has known about these proceedings for months, if not over a year. Mr. Landis has always been extremely cooperative," Halpern said.
Halpern told reporters that the restitution amount represents "every penny" Landis raised on the false pretense that he didn't take performance-enhancing drugs. Donors contributed as much as $50,000 each.
Halpern credited Landis for coming clean in 2010 and helping expose doping in cycling.
"This agreement reflects that," he said.
Landis, 36, won the Tour de France in 2006 but was stripped of the title after an arbitration panel upheld the results of a positive test for synthetic testosterone.
After strenuous denials and a protracted fight in courts around the world, Landis acknowledged using performance-enhancing substances and has alleged widespread doping on his U.S. Postal Service team, which included seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Friday stripped Armstrong of his record seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life from the sport after concluding he used banned substances.
Armstrong, whose victories after his comeback from cancer helped him transcend sports, said Thursday that he chose to not pursue arbitration with the agency. It was Armstrong's last option in his bitter fight with USADA.
The action leaves Greg LeMond as the only American to win the race.
Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title.