Armstrong, shown here muddied from the cobbles at the 2010 Tour de France, will not contest the doping charges against him and now leaves behind a messy legacy.
The Associated Press has reported that Lance Armstrong will not contest the doping charges levelled against him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). The USADA has charged that Armstrong not only used banned substances to win his seven Tour titles beginning in 1999, but also that he was part of a conspiracy to conceal his use. The case also alleges that Armstrong pressured teammates and other riders to use banned substances and actively worked against efforts within the sport to enforce anti-doping rules.
Thursday's announcement from Armstrong means that he could receive a lifetime ban from cycling, triathlon, and all other sports subject to USADA and World Anti-Doping Agency rules. Armstrong could also lose his seven Tour titles and other cycling results from his career. According to the AP story:
Armstrong says he is innocent, but announced Thursday night that he has decided against fighting USADA because he is weary of the doping accusations that have dogged him for years. His decision could lead to a lifetime ban from cycling and perhaps the loss of the Tour titles he won from 1999-2005.
Armstrong retired from cycling in 2010, and doping suspicions have followed him ever since. The USADA case follows a grand jury investigation in Los Angeles that was dropped quite suddenly to the surprise of many observers. The current case reportedly relies on the testimony of more than ten riders who raced with Armstrong and information gleaned from doping controls taken throughout Armstrong's career.
In a statement published on his personal website, lancearmstrong.com, Armstrong challenged the legitimacy and fairness of the USADA investigation and called it a "witch hunt."
Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart's [USADA] unconstitutional witch hunt. 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.
In his statement, Armstrong also asserts that the anti-doping organization can not strip him of his Tour victories, and claims that he "played by the rules." "USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles," Armstrong wrote. "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." The former rider concludes that he will not answer any further questions about doping and will devote his time to raising money for his cancer charity, Livestrong.
The next step in the case will be a ruling issued by the USADA that details the sanctions that the organization will impose Armstrong. If the U.S. Anti-doping Agency imposes the expected sanction of stripping Armstrong's Tour victories, Greg LeMond would become the only American cyclist ever to win the Tour de France. LeMond won the Tour de France in 1986, 1989, and 1990.
The USADA has already banned several doctors named in the case. A hearing is pending in the case of Johann Bruyneel, who acted as sports director for Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service team during the years of Armstrong's victory. Bruyneel is currently the manager of the Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek team.
The consequences of the case may well require a large-scale rewriting of the cycling record books for the seven years between 1999 and 2006. Armstrong also briefly returned to racing during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and placed third in the 2009 Tour de France.