SAN DIEGO, August 23, 2012 – Lance Armstrong, seven time Tour de France winner considered among the greatest professional cyclists in history and an inspiration to cancer survivors everywhere, informed the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) today he would no longer fight the formal doping charges made against him in June, alleging that he is part of a massive doping conspiracy.
Armstrong dropped any further challenges to the USADA’s allegations that he took various performance-enhancing substances to win the Tour de France, cycling’s premier event, a record seven times from 1999 to 2005.
In a statement, Armstrong said the following:
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, “Enough is enough.” For me, that time is now… The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today - finished with this nonsense.
“If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and - once and for all - put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. Regardless of what (USADA chief executive) Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims.
“I will no longer address this 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… I have a responsibility to all those who have stepped forward to devote their time and energy to the cancer cause. I will not stop fighting for that mission.”
The immediate question raised is the impact of the decision. USADA chief executive Travis Tygart immediately issued a statement, saying the agency would ban Lance Armstrong from cycling for life and strip him of his seven Tour de France titles for doping, calling the case a “heartbreaking” example of a win-at-all-costs approach to sports.
Armstrong says the USADA doesn’t have any authority to vacate his Tour de France titles, which Tygart told the Associated Press he disputes. “USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles,” he said. “I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours.”
USADA can impose a lifetime ban going forward, but it can only recommend he be stripped of his titles. The actual decision rests with the International Cycling Union, which has questioned the USADA’s authority to pursue the investigation, along with Tour de France officials. It’s no secret the Tour and Armstrong haven’t always seen eye to eye, but stripping one of cycling’s heroes and greatest ambassadors would be a horrible stain on the sport’s crown jewel.
The USADA will consider Armstrong’s decision as an admission of guilt, and hang the label of drug cheat on an athlete who was a hero to thousands for overcoming life-threatening testicular cancer and for his foundation’s support for cancer research.
Armstrong could have continued to fight in USADA’s arbitration process, but the cyclist has said he believes most people have already made up their minds about whether he’s a fraud or a persecuted hero.
The USADA accused Armstrong of using the banned substance EPO, testosterone, human growth hormone, anti-inflammatory steroids, masking agents and blood transfusions. It claims that blood samples collected in 2009 and 2010 are “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”
USADA says Armstrong along with his longtime cycling team manager Johan Bruyneel, team trainer and team physicians conspired to use and distribute illegal substances from 1998 to 2011.
The USADA says its evidence comes from witnesses including “numerous riders, team personnel and others” who will testify they either saw Armstrong doping or heard him tell them he used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone from 1996 to 2005. Armstrong won seven straight Tour de France cycling races from 1999-2005.
Armstrong remains adamant that he has never doped, has passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one, frequently calling the USADA’s pursuit of him a “witch hunt” and a “vendetta.”
Many would say the same about the USADA’s years-long pursuit of Armstrong, long after leaving competitive cycling. They took to the internet on Twitter and Facebook, using the hastag #witchhunt and directing anger at the USADA for its actions and defending Armstrong, pointing out that he has never failed the testing system put into place to prevent doping.
Whatever sanctions are brought or whatever titles are stripped, people who are convinced he’s been doping all along will say, “See? Told you so!” Admirers, supporters, fans, and fellow cancer survivors will support today’s decision by Armstrong as part of his effort to cut his losses and move forward so that he can resume his leadership role in the war on cancer.
One thing the USADA cannot take away is the way Armstrong’s dominance of the Tour de France elevated the sport of cycling’s popularity in America to unprecedented levels. His story and success helped sell millions of the “Livestrong” plastic yellow wrist bracelets, and enabled him to enlist lawmakers and global policymakers to promote cancer awareness and research. His Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised nearly $500 million since its founding in 1997.
Heroes can be very complicated people, with faults, flaws and failings. Often those failings co-exist with unprecedented accomplishments that serve humanity and inspire others. Any way you define a hero, there is no doubt Armstrong deserves the title.
Associated Press contributed to this story.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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