Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Lance Armstrong facing life ban and loss of titles

Seven times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong
Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong
U.S. Lance Armstrong signs the starting list prior to the second stage of the Giro d'Italia, Tour of Italy cycling race, from Jesolo to Trieste, Sunday, May 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong faces being stripped of his titles and banned from cycling for life after announcing he will not contest charges levelled by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

American Armstrong 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."

The 40-year-old has always denied claims he ever used performance-enhancing drugs during his career but USADA chief executive Travis T. Tygart has said Armstrong should face the same proceedings as any other athlete charged with doping offences.

Armstrong's achievements are now set to be wiped from the record books.

Asked what actions USADA intended to impose, spokeswoman Annie Skinner said in an email: "A loss of all results from August 1, 1998 and a lifetime ban from participating any sport sanctioned by a signatory to the WADA Code."

Armstrong, who was charged 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.

His statement added: "Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart's 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."

He added: "Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances."

In an 871-word statement, Armstrong called USADA's actions a "charade" and the allegations against him "outlandish and heinous".

He said: "If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA's process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and - once and for all - put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance.

"But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims.

"The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colours. I made myself available around the clock and around the world. In-competition. Out of competition. Blood. Urine. Whatever they asked for I provided. What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?"

Armstrong is the most successful rider in the history of the Tour de France, winning each year from 1999 to 2005, his story made all the more remarkable by the fact his triumphs came after beating cancer.

He claims the USADA investigation "has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs".

He added: "I am a retired cyclist, yet USADA has lodged charges over 17 years old despite its own eight-year limitation. As respected organisations such as UCI [world cycling's governing body] and USA Cycling have made clear, USADA lacks jurisdiction even to bring these charges."

Armstrong claims: "USADA has broken the law, turned its back on its own rules, and stiff-armed those who have tried to persuade USADA to honour its obligations.

"At every turn, USADA 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 US taxpayers' expense."

He added: "The bottom line is I played by the rules that were put in place by the UCI, WADA and USADA when I raced.

"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."

Five others - three team doctors and two officials - associated with the United States Postal Service professional cycling team, for whom Armstrong rode, are also the subject of legal proceedings from USADA.

Armstrong, in a passionate defence of his record, said USADA had no right to set the wheels in motion towards wiping out his Tour victories.

"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."

Armstrong said he would dedicate himself to his family and to his Live Strong cancer foundation.

Responding to Armstrong's statement, USADA chief executive 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."



LANCE ARMSTRONG STATEMENT

"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. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart's 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.

"I had hoped that a federal court would stop USADA's charade. Although the court was sympathetic to my concerns and recognised the many improprieties and deficiencies in USADA's motives, its conduct, and its process, the court ultimately decided that it could not intervene.

"If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA's process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and - once and for all - put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colours. I made myself available around the clock and around the world. In-competition. Out of competition. Blood. Urine. Whatever they asked for I provided. What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?

"From the beginning, however, this investigation has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs. I am a retired cyclist, yet USADA has lodged charges over 17 years old despite its own eight-year limitation. As respected organisations such as UCI and USA Cycling have made clear, USADA lacks jurisdiction even to bring these charges. The international bodies governing cycling have ordered USADA to stop, have given notice that no one should participate in USADA's improper proceedings, and have made it clear the pronouncements by USADA that it has banned people for life or stripped them of their accomplishments are made without authority. And as many others, including USADA's own arbitrators, have found, there is nothing even remotely fair about its process. USADA has broken the law, turned its back on its own rules, and stiff-armed those who have tried to persuade USADA to honour its obligations. At every turn, USADA 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 US taxpayers' expense. 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 practise what they preach. On top of all that, USADA has allegedly made deals with other riders that circumvent their own rules as long as they said I cheated. Many of those riders continue to race today.

"The bottom line is I played by the rules that were put in place by the UCI, WADA and USADA when I raced. 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-teammate 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.

"USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles. 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.

"Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances. 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. This October, my Foundation will celebrate 15 years of service to cancer survivors and the milestone of raising nearly 500 million US dollars. We have a lot of work to do and I'm looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction. I have a responsibility to all those who have stepped forward to devote their time and energy to the cancer cause. I will not stop fighting for that mission. Going forward, I am going to devote myself to raising my five beautiful (and energetic) kids, fighting cancer, and attempting to be the fittest 40-year old on the planet."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre