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 today. And under the World Anti-Doping Code, he would lose the bronze medal from the 2000 Olympics as well as any awards, event titles and cash earnings.
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 cited the hundreds of drug tests he passed as proof of his innocence while piling up Tour titles from 1999 to 2005.
“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.”
USADA reacted quickly and treated Armstrong’s decision as an admission of guilt.Tygart said the agency had the power to strip the Tour titles, though Armstrong disputed that.
“USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles,” he said.
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 and in theory could take the case before the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.
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