NEW YORK - Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and given a lifetime ban by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) after opting not to contest USADA drugs charges, saying he is tired of fighting the allegations. He strongly denies doping.
The American said in a statement that he is ‘finished with this nonsense’ and insisted he is innocent but did not want to spend any further effort clearing his name.
He said: ‘There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say “Enough is enough. For me, that time is now”.
‘I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999.’
Armstrong’s achievements are set to be wiped from the record books.
Asked what actions USADA intended to impose, spokeswoman Annie Skinner said: ‘A loss of all results from August 1, 1998 and a lifetime ban from participating in any sport sanctioned by a signatory to the WADA Code.’
Armstrong, 40, has always denied claims he ever used performance-enhancing drugs during his career and has never failed a test.
But USADA chief executive Travis Tygart has said the Texan should face the same proceedings as any other athlete charged with doping offences.
Armstrong, charged by USADA in June, sought a temporary restraining order against the agency’s legal action but that was dismissed in a federal court in Austin, Texas on Monday.
And World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey says Armstrong’s decision not to contest doping charges against him was an admission that the allegations ‘had substance in them.’
Fahey said that he was certain the United States Anti-Doping Agency acted properly in their investigations.
‘I am confident and WADA is confident that the USADA acted within the WADA code, and that a court in Texas also decided not to interfere,’ Fahey said. ‘They now have the right to apply a penalty that will be recognised by all WADA code countries around the world.’
His former team-mates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton have both accused Armstrong of doping. Both Landis and Hamilton have also been punished for doping.
Armstrong, who in 2011 retired from cycling for a second time, is the most successful rider in the history of the Tour de France, winning each year from 1999 to 2005.
His story was made all the more remarkable by the fact his triumphs came after beating cancer.
Armstrong claims the USADA investigation ‘has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs’.
‘Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart’s unconstitutional witch hunt,’ 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.’
He added: ‘Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances.’
He accused USADA of having ‘broken the law’ and ‘played the role of a bully’ and insisted he always ‘played by the rules’ put in place by anti-doping agencies and cycling’s world governing body the UCI.
He added in a statement on his personal website: ‘The idea that athletes can be convicted today without positive A and B samples, under the same rules and procedures that apply to athletes with positive tests, perverts the system and creates a process where any begrudged ex-team-mate can open a USADA case out of spite or for personal gain or a cheating cyclist can cut a sweetheart deal for themselves.
‘It’s an unfair approach, applied selectively, in opposition to all the rules. It’s just not right.’
Armstrong, in a passionate defence of his career record, said USADA had no right to take away his Tour titles.
‘USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles,’ he said.
‘I know who won those seven Tours, my team-mates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours.
‘We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront.
‘There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that. Especially not Travis Tygart.’
Responding to Armstrong’s statement, Tygart said: ‘It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes.’
While Armstrong remains steadfast that he did not cheat, Tygart sees the case in a different light.
Tygart added in a statement released by USADA: ‘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.’
* June 2012 - USADA officially charges Armstrong with doping, based on blood samples from 2009 and 2010, and testimonies from other cyclists. Armstrong was charged in a letter from USADA, along with five others, including former team manager Johan Bruyneel.
* July 9 - Armstrong files lawsuit against the USADA, which a federal court judge threw out later the same day.
The following day he files a revised lawsuit, once again asking to stop the agency from stripping his seven Tour de France titles and banning him from the sport for life if he failed to submit to arbitration over alleged doping violations.
* Armstrong’s lawsuit claimed that the USADA did not have jurisdiction and that his right to due process was being violated but it was thrown out by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks on August 20, who upheld the USADA’s jurisdiction in the case.
* August 23 - Armstrong says he is ending his fight against the USADA, but maintains they lack jurisdiction to strip him of his Tour de France titles.