In what is tantamount to an admission of guilt, Lance Armstrong has opted to no longer contest the charges against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency which included allegations of EPO use and blood doping activities to enhance performance. Had he continued, Lance faced an arbitration process that would have made public all evidence against him, including testimony from a reported 10 former teammates and associates prepared to take the stand against him.
Though the implications of all this remain to be seen, in addition to a lifetime ban from the sport, the USADA asserts that it has the authority to strip Armstrong of his victories, even erasing his unprecedented seven yellow jerseys won in the Tour de France.
"It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes," said Travis Tygart, head of the USADA, in a statement. "This is a heartbreaking example of how the win-at-all-costs culture of sport, if left unchecked, will overtake fair, safe and honest competition, but for clean athletes, it is a reassuring reminder that there is hope for future generations to compete on a level playing field without the use of performance-enhancing drugs."
Armstrong issued his own statement, of course. "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, "Enough is enough." For me, that time is now." He went on to call the USADA efforts against him an "unconstitutional witch hunt" and cited the toll the constant investigations have taken on him, his family and his work for his foundation as reason to step aside. (You can read Armstrong's full statement here.)
Regardless of what you think of Armstrong or these charges against him, this is an unfortunate day for cycling. For a sport that remains on the fringe of mainstream America and either ignored or misunderstood by most of the public, it's frustrating that the only time it makes the news is to cover seedy stories like this, with strange accounts of midnight doings and drugs and bags of blood in the refrigerator.
And when arguably the biggest name in the sport of the last two decades -- and certainly the only who who carried it even a bit closer to awareness and credibility among the general population in the U.S. -- is taken down by allegations that almost certainly paint him as a liar and a cheat, nobody can feel happy about that. Lance was a hero, a larger-than-life Texan who dated starlets and couldn't be beat -- not by cancer, not by the mountains on the Tour de France. But now his legacy has been ruined, him forever thrown in with the like of Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Shoeless Joe Jackson. That's what he will be remembered for. And that's a shame.
- Lance Armstrong's Statement Announcing Decision to No Longer Contest USADA Charges
- Report: Former teammates testify against Armstrong, receive suspensions themselves
- Lance targeted again: USADA brings doping charges
- Met Lance Armstrong (and he was a little stiff)
- Nothing Sticks to Lance in U.S. Justice Department investigation
- Former teammate Tyler Hamilton says Lance was a Doper
- Is there anything Lance can't do?
- Drugs and Doping in Professional Cycling
- All About Lance Armstrong
- Lance Armstrong: a photo gallery of a life in cycling
- Books by and about Lance Armstrong