Lance Armstrong stripped of 7 Tour de France titles
The cycling icon announced he would no longer fight the drug charges that have stained his legacy.
Fri, Aug 24, 2012 at 05:39 AM
USADA said late Thursday that Armstrong will be banned for life for using performance-enhancing drugs to win cycling's most prestigious race from 1999 to 2005 — charges that Armstrong has vehemently denied. (Photo: Joel Saget/AFP)
Lance Armstrong will be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said, after the cycling icon announced he would no longer fight the drug charges that have stained his legacy.
USADA said late Thursday that Armstrong will be banned for life for using performance-enhancing drugs to win cycling's most prestigious race from 1999 to 2005 — charges that Armstrong has vehemently denied.
Armstrong, while maintaining his innocence, earlier announced his decision after a U.S. federal court dismissed his lawsuit against USADA this week, paving the way for the agency to continue its case against him.
USADA said in June it had evidence that Armstrong used banned substances, including information supplied by former team-mates.
Armstrong accused USADA of an "unconstitutional witch hunt," as he declined to pursue procedures that could have taken his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"Today I turn the page," Armstrong said on his website. "I will no longer address the issue, regardless of the circumstances.
"I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities."
The 40-year-old, who battled to the top of his sport after overcoming life-threatening cancer, said he was growing weary of the fight and the strain it had put on his personal and professional life.
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say 'enough is enough.' For me, that time is now," he said, adding: "Finished with this nonsense."
USADA chief Travis Tygart told AFP that Armstrong would be stripped of all his results dating back to August 1, 1998, adding in a separate statement that the situation was a "sad day" for sport.
There now needed to be a change to the "win-at-all-costs culture," expressing hope that future crackdowns would create a "level playing field" for all competitors, he added.
The agency maintains that Armstrong used banned substances,including the blood-booster EPO and steroids, as well as blood transfusions dating back to 1996, and said 10 of his former team-mates were ready to testify against him.
Armstrong argued that USADA was usurping the jurisdiction that should belong to world cycling's governing body, the International Cycling Union.
The UCI had no immediate comment to make when contacted by AFP on Friday but said it would respond.
If the UCI confirm that the rider is stripped of his Tour de France titles, they face a potential headache of choosing the new Tour winners, as a number of cyclists who finished behind the American have also been implicated in doping scandals.
Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, said he passed hundreds of drug tests during his career and adhered to the rules in place at the time of his Tour de France wins.
"The bottom line is I played by the rules that were put in place by the UCI, WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and USADA when I raced," Armstrong wrote.
"The idea that athletes can be convicted today without positive A and B samples, under the same rules and procedures that apply to athletes with positive tests, perverts the system and creates a process where any begrudged ex-teammate can open a USADA case out of spite or for personal gain or a cheating cyclist can cut a sweetheart deal for themselves."
Armstrong also alleged USADA had used heavy-handed tactics to pursue him and even broke the law.
The agency "turned its back on its own rules, and stiff-armed those who have tried to persuade USADA to honor its obligations," he said.
"I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair," he added, alleging that from the start the probe had been "about punishing me at all costs."
WADA chief John Fahey, however, told ABC radio in Australia that he believed the USADA acted properly.
"They laid very serious charges, he (Armstrong) has chosen not to rebut those charges.
"He can say what he likes. The only way we would have known what the substance was of those charges, what the evidence was, was to have the evidence tested and I'm disappointed that won't occur."
Allegations of doping by Armstrong were made in two books, "LA Confidential" and "L.A. Official" while in 2005, the French sports daily L'Equipe reported that retested urine samples from the 1999 Tour de France indicated use of EPO.
Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition