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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lance Armstrong ends his fight; USADA strips him of 7 Tour de France titles

Lance Armstrong fought to beat testicular cancer, fought to win seven straight Tour de France titles, and fought to keep defending himself against continuous allegations of PED use, but on August 23, 2012, the cyclist surrendered in his fight with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. USADA took Armstrong’s decision not to enter arbitration regarding the doping charges he faced as an admission of guilt, and the agency stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him from cycling for life.

Had Armstrong entered arbitration, he likely would have been forced to defend himself against overwhelming evidence of cheating.

According to The Associated Press, USADA had blood tests from 2009 and 2010 that showed Armstrong was blood doping. They also reportedly had 10 former Armstrong teammates ready to testify against him, including ones who said Armstrong encouraged them to cheat. They believe he has been doping and using various PEDs since 1996.

Armstrong sued USADA in hopes that a federal court would block the case from proceeding, but the case was thrown out on Monday. That must have been Armstrong’s last line of defense because he made the decision to stop fighting only three days later. My guess is he and his PR team knew that too much damaging information would be presented in arbitration, so they decided to stop the fight now in order to prevent the negativity.

Armstrong got to release a statement that accuses USADA of being a “bully” and makes the agency look like the bad guy. His statement declares he won the Tour de Frances on a level playing field.

There are some people who are such unabashed Lance Armstrong fans that they will believe anything he says, including his insistence that he never cheated. There are some people who believe he used his fame for such a good cause — the Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised $500 million — that they don’t care whether or not he cheated. There are those who believe he doped but don’t view it as cheating because cycling is such a dirty sport, they figure everyone was doing it and therefore he was on a level playing field. Then there are some people who believe that regardless of circumstance, cheating is unacceptable.

USADA chief Travis Tygart believes the latter. He released the following statement:

“It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes. 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.”

Between what we know about how dirty cycling is, and the testimony of multiple former Armstrong teammates, I think you would have to be in serious denial to think he wasn’t doping. Whether you consider that cheating is a different argument, and whether you justify cheating because of his work with cancer research is a moral debate.

I’ve felt all along that Armstrong doped and either lied about it, or indirectly defended himself (boasting that you’ve passed a drug test does not mean you didn’t dope, Lance). I think his work with Livestrong is admirable, and that he used his fame for mostly noble causes. But I would have respected him more if he admitted the truth a long time ago rather than bash everyone who came after him. I view Lance Armstrong as an outstanding athlete who was a great inspiration for millions of people, and also a cheater.



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