AUSTIN, Texas -- The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday night it will strip Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he declared he was finished fighting the drug charges that threaten 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.
Still to be heard from was the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union, which had backed Armstrong's legal challenge to USADA's authority.
It's that last graf that holds a pertinent bit of information and one I suspect means it ain't over, even if the witch hunt is.
Armstrong stood no chance of a fair hearing in front of the USADA, which is basing its claims on hearsay evidence. The prosecution said they had ten eyewitnesses lined up to testify to Armstrong use and distribution of steroids.
Seventeen years ago.
Armstrong denies those allegations and raises the point that he is the single most tested athlete in history-- both in and out of competitions-- and has never failed any of over five hundred drug tests. And it's true: there has never been factual evidence to support any claim that he used steroids. Too, the USADA...well, let Lance tell it in his own words:
I am a retired cyclist, yet USADA has lodged charges over 17 years old despite its own 8-year limitation. As respected organizations 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 honor its obligations.
Y'know, we have war crimes on our hands that get less investigation than these clowns have performed.
In effect, the USADA have decided to convict Armstrong, perhaps the most celebrated international athlete ever, without proof. I don't toss about phrases like "witch hunt" lightly. This smacks of McCarthyism. Who knows what pressure was brought to bear on these witnesses, some of whom, like Floyd Landis, have a personal agenda that extends past the investigation.
Landis, you may recall, had his own Tour de France title stripped when he tested positive for steroids in the year after Armstrong first retired from the sport.
Now, I agree, the circumstantial evidence that suggests that Armstrong doped is strong, even excluding the testimony of fellow riders. After all, nearly everyone he beat out for those seven titles has been suspended at one time or other for the use (or suspected use) of performance-enhancing drugs and it would be foolish to think that through some miracle, the guy who was better than the cheaters didn't keep a card up his sleeve as well.
But then Lance also beat a testicular cancer that had metastasized to his brain and lungs, so if anyone could perform that kind of miracle on a bicycle, we'd expect it from someone who came back from the dead.
But that ace-in-his-sleeve that he now carries and may be about to play might be the card to save his reputation. The UCI can object to the USADA actions, and appeal the decision to the impartial Court of Sport Arbitration in Switzerland, far from Travis Tygart, far from the clearly biased investigations, and a more balanced and fair venue to have a trial, so to speak.
Which is what Armstrong wanted in the first place. You'll note he never ran away from the fight, he just stopped fighting a fight he could not win, the witch hunt.