With stunning swiftness, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday night it will strip Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he dropped his fight against drug charges that threatened his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.
Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive, said Armstrong would also be hit with a lifetime ban on Friday. Under the World Anti-Doping Code, he could lose other awards, event titles and cash earnings while the International Olympic Committee might look at the bronze medal he won in the 2000 Games.
Armstrong, who retired last year, effectively dropped his fight by declining to enter USADA’s arbitration process — his last option — because he said he was weary of fighting accusations that have dogged him for years. He has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests he passed as proof of his innocence while piling up Tour titles from 1999 to 2005.
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now,” Armstrong said. He called the USADA investigation an “unconstitutional witch hunt.”
“I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999,” he said. “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.”
USADA reacted quickly and treated Armstrong’s decision as an admission of guilt, hanging 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.
“It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and athletes,” Tygart said. “It’s a heartbreaking example of win at all costs overtaking the fair and safe option. There’s no success in cheating to win.”
Tygart said the agency had the power to strip the Tour titles, though Armstrong disputed that.
You can read Armstrong’s statement here, and his lawyer’s letter to the USADA here. The funny thing about this is that if USADA does strip Armstrong of his titles, there may be no one else who can be awarded them.
The Tour has taken away titles from two riders: Floyd Landis in 2006 and Alberto Contador in 2010. Each tested positive for a banned substance while riding to his Tour victory.
Landis, a former teammate of Armstrong, iniataed USADA’s investigation of Armstrong.
If Armstrong’s titles are taken away it is unclear who would be declared the winner. Most of the cyclists behind Armstrong on the podium were suspended for using drugs including Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Alexander Vinokourov.
Here’s a radical idea: Why even bother testing? If they’re all doping anyway, then no one is really getting an advantage, and they playing field is sufficiently level. Well, it would have been level for everyone except Armstrong himself, who has passed every drug test given to him, and he managed to win anyway. I don’t really follow cycling, and I never paid that much attention to the Tour de France, even when Armstrong was dominating it. I have at best a surface-level knowledge of the history here. From that perspective, I have no idea why the USADA has been going after Armstrong so hard. I don’t get it. Be that as it may, it looks like the USADA will finally get what it’s been after for all these years. Mission accomplished, I guess.