And is apparently headed for a lifetime ban from the sport:
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.
Having never followed this story before, I was surprised when I received the news alert last night about it. I was vaguely aware there were allegations, but didn’t know there was any danger of such a drastic sanction.
The USADA and other governing bodies seem to be proceeding under the view that Armstrong’s failure to fight the charges (despite having contested them in the past) means they’re true:
“He had a right to contest the charges,” WADA President John Fahey said after Armstrong’s announcement. “He chose not to. The simple fact is that his refusal to examine the evidence means the charges had substance in them.”
I am not comfortable with that. It’s certainly not how things are supposed to work in this country, where you’re innocent until proven guilty, and the evidence has to stand on its own. Reading the article, it looks to me like there is some evidence Armstrong used steroids. For example:
After Armstrong’s second victory in 2000, French judicial officials investigated his Postal Service team for drug use. That investigation ended with no charges, but the allegations kept coming.
Armstrong was criticized for his relationship with [Michele] Ferrari, who was banned by Italian authorities over doping charges in 2002. Former personal and team assistants accused Armstrong of having steroids in an apartment in Spain and disposing of syringes that were used for injections.
In 2004, a Dallas-based promotions company initially refused to pay him a $5 million bonus for winning his sixth Tour de France because it wanted to investigate allegations raised by media in Europe. Testimony in that case included former teammate Frankie Andreu and his wife, Betsy, saying Armstrong told doctors during his 1996 cancer treatments that he had taken a cornucopia of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.
But I’m not sure how strong that evidence is. Armstrong says he’s just tired of fighting this:
“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.”
Armstrong may have doped himself and he may not have. All I’m saying is: the evidence should stand on its own.