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Lance defiant, but knew he was doomed
Lance Armstrong, beaten down by years of innuendo and a couple of months under the specter of official doping charges, surrendered Thursday night.
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“At every turn, USADA [the US Anti-Doping Agency] has played the role of a bully, threatening everyone in its way and challenging the good faith of anyone who questions its motives or its methods, all at U.S. taxpayers' expense,” Armstrong said in a statement sent to FOXSports.com.
“For the last two months, USADA has endlessly repeated the mantra that there should be a single set of rules, applicable to all, but they have arrogantly refused to practice what they preach.”
Seem strange that a man who beat back testicular cancer before winning seven Tour de France titles could be so easily detoured? Sure does.
Armstrong still denies he used testosterone, endurance-boosting EPO and/or any other banned methods to win any of his titles, but his options to clear his name dwindled after a lawsuit against the USADA was dismissed by a federal judge earlier this week.
The next step would have been a hearing in front of an arbitration panel, one that he decided ultimately not to take. It’s just prestige at this point, anyway, in a matter on which much of the public has already chosen sides.
“Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances,” continued Armstrong, who was subject to a two-year federal investigation before prosecutors dropped the case earlier this year.
“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.”
USADA is seeking a lifetime ban, which at this point is moot. Armstrong has been retired from cycling for a couple of years, although the sanction would forbid him from participating in his current hobby: triathlons.
It’s a little murkier when it comes to whether USADA has the authority to strip Armstrong of those seven titles — on a couple of different levels.
“USADA refuses to abide its own governing rules,” wrote Timothy Herman, one of Armstrong’s lawyers, in a news release Thursday night. “Mr. Armstrong is not free to pick and choose the rules he must follow.”
Armstrong’s camp said it’s only the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the organizers of the Tour de France that can make a decision on whether to strip Armstrong’s titles.
There also is the question of the statute of limitations set forth by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which typically is limited to eight years.
That would typically mean only Armstrong’s final two Tour tiles (2004 and 2005) would be at risk, although USADA claims an ongoing doping conspiracy resets the clock — a lever that puts all of his titles at risk.
“This investigation has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs,” Armstrong wrote. “I am a retired cyclist, yet USADA has lodged charges over 17 years old despite its own 8-year limitation.”
USADA CEO Travis Tygart told The Associated Press that the organization would hit Armstrong with a lifetime ban on Friday.
Tygart asserts that UCI must abide by the WADA code and strip Armstrong of all his accomplishments dating back to 1998, which also include a bronze medal in the 2000 Summer Games. The decision also would allow organizers to seek repayment of any prize money that Armstrong secured.
UCI could make a decision as early as Friday as to whether to heed USADA’s wishes or appeal sanctions, claiming that it’s the ultimate authority on the matter.
Doping authorities — which have been on a tear over the last two weeks with the bans of San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera and Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon for synthetic testosterone — can claim victory once again with Armstrong, who despite never testing positive will be lumped in the most notable dopers in history.
“I have always thought that Lance is guilty of doping,” Victor Conte, who founded Bay Area Lab Co-Operative (BALCO) and supplied several elite athletes with performance-enhancing drugs, told FOXSports.com.
“Although I do feel badly for his family and friends because they didn't cheat or lie, they will suffer painful consequences, too. This reminds me how things ended for (former sprinter) Marion Jones.”
Armstrong, while giving up the fight, still doesn’t feel he should be lumped with the likes of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis, who had his 2006 Tour de France title stripped after a positive test for testosterone and later became one of Armstrong’s chief accusers.
“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,” Armstrong wrote.
“We all raced together. Nobody can ever change that. Especially not Travis Tygart.”
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