August 25, 2012
American cyclist Lance Armstrong is used to making the headlines around the world for various reasons, but on Aug. 23 it was definitely the wrong kind. Armstrong’s name was mentioned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency when it said he was going to be stripped of his world-record seven Tour de France championships. The USADA was launched in 2000 and is the official Olympic anti-doping organization in the U.S. Armstrong would have gone down in history as one of the world’s greatest ever cyclists, but his name has now been tarnished forever. To make matters worse, he was also banned from competing in the sport he loves for the rest of his life. However, this may not bother him too much since he retired from the sport last year.
Armstrong had the opportunity to enter a USADA arbitration hearing, but he declined as he said he was just too tired to fight the charges anymore. He said he had passed an endless amount of drug tests during his career, especially during the period from 1999 to 2005 when he won seven straight Tour de France crowns. Armstrong told the press that it was just time for him to say enough is enough since he considered the USADA to be on a witch hunt.
The 40-year-old cyclist said that he’s been fighting doping allegations ever since 1999 and it’s taken a toll on him and his family and he just doesn’t want to involve himself in this nonsense any longer. With Armstrong basically giving up, the USADA treated his actions as an admission of guilt and said it’s a sad day for all athletes and sports fans as it’s a case of somebody trying to win at all costs. Travis Tygart, the CEO of the USADA, said his organization has the power to take Armstrong’s titles away, but Armstrong said he’s hasn’t admitted to using illegal substances but has merely said he isn’t going to enter the arbitration process because he believes it isn’t fair.
Armstrong claimed that the USADA doesn’t control international sports and everybody knows who won those Tour de France titles, including his teammates, opponents, and the fans. The USADA believes the cyclist was using banned substances as far back as 1996 and was also getting blood transfusions to help him perform better. However, when he retired last year, Armstrong wasn’t charged with anything even though he was the subject of a federal criminal investigation. But in June, the USADA said that it had proof that he utilized illegal methods and took banned substances and even encouraged his teammates to take them. It cited blood tests taken in 2009 and 2010 as evidence.
Other evidence allegedly included emails from Floyd Landis, a former teammate of Armstrong’s who tested positive in 2006 and was stripped of his Tour de France championship. It’s been reported that Landis told American cycling officials that the team was involved in a sophisticated illegal doping program. The USADA additionally claimed that 10 former teammates would testify against Armstrong, including Tyler Hamilton and Landis. Armstrong then sued the USADA and was backed by the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) but a judge dismissed the case.
But even though the judge Sam Sparks sided with the USADA, he questioned their motives in pursuing Armstrong and suggested they might be publicity or politically driven. This has prompted the cyclist, who suffered from testicular cancer, to simply give up on the case and he said he’ll now devote his time and energy into helping those affected by cancer. Armstrong’s foundation has raised close to $500 million for cancer research since opening in 1997. He said he could have gone the arbitration route with the USADA, but believes most people have already decided by themselves if he’s a drug cheat or not.
Several people closely associated to Armstrong were also charged with two medical staff and a doctor receiving lifetime bans after deciding not to contest the allegations. Armstrong’s feat of seven Tour de France victories made him a target for anti-doping agencies since he was winning them against other riders who were actually doped up and caught at it. Many people accused him of cheating, but didn’t have any hard evidence against him and he always fought the accusations. All the evidence that was brought up was the eye-witness type in which people associated with him said they saw and heard things. Armstrong shot back with several lawsuits in Europe against media outlets which had printed some of the allegations.
The constant questions led to him retiring for the first time in 2005, when he said he was sick of it. He returned to the sport three years later though and placed third at the Tour de France in 2009. During the criminal investigation that followed in 2010 he testified that he didn’t take and illegal substances since he had a lot to lose. He was embroiled in a dispute at the time over an unpaid $5 million bonus, which hinged on his innocence. But he said money wasn’t the only thing since all of the faith people have put in him over the years would be lost too.
Until any hard and undeniable evidence is introduced, Armstrong’s case will be fiercely debated around the world by those who believe in him and those who don’t.