Lance Armstrong admits careless driving in Colorado hit-and-run

DENVER - Lance Armstrong has pleaded guilty to careless driving for side-swiping two parked cars in the Colorado ski resort of Aspen late last year in an incident for which his girlfriend initially took the blame, authorities said on Wednesday.

The 43-year-old disgraced professional cyclist avoided a court appearance by paying US$238.50 in fines and court costs by mail last week, according to the Pitkin County clerk's office.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from racing in 2012 after a US Anti-Doping investigation. He later admitted in a television interview using performance-enhancing drugs during his championship run.

This week arbitrators ordered Armstrong to pay US$10 million to a sports insurance company for bonuses he reaped from his tainted victories, calling the case "an unparalleled pageant of international perjury, fraud and conspiracy."

In the Aspen incident, Armstrong was initially cited for leaving the scene of an accident and driving too fast for the icy road conditions when he crashed into the cars in the upscale ski resort one night in late December.

According to police reports, a resident who heard the crash said that when he came outside to investigate, a woman, later identified as Armstrong's longtime girlfriend Anna Hansen, approached him.

Hansen apologised for the accident, the resident told police, said she would pay for the damages, and left the scene.

When investigators went to the Aspen home the couple shared they found a vehicle registered to Armstrong with "significant damage."

Police said Hansen told officers she was driving because Armstrong had been drinking "a little bit" at a charity event the couple attended at an Aspen hotel.

But a hotel valet later told police that Armstrong was behind the wheel when they left, and after police challenged Hansen's story she ultimately admitted the couple made "a joint decision" to say she was driving to avoid publicity.

Armstrong was then cited for the accidents.

Pitkin County prosecutor Andrea Bryan said earlier that Hansen was not cited for making false statements to police because authorities encourage witnesses to be truthful, and charging people who volunteer information is counterproductive.

A representative for Armstrong had no comment on his Colorado guilty plea.