The decision of cyclist Lance Armstrong not to further contest doping charges against him and the decision of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to strip him of his seven Tour de France titles, won in the sport’s most prestigious event, leaves behind a sad, sour taste.
ARMSTRONG SAID said he was weary of battling the never-ending doping allegations: “There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now.”
He declined to pursue the next step, arbitration, an evidentiary proceeding with witnesses, including some of his former teammates.
The USADA said Armstrong did so because he knew he would lose, and took his decision not to challenge the proceedings as an admission of guilt. The agency took away his titles and banned him from the sport for life.
Cycling has been rife with doping scandals, perhaps more than any other sport, but Armstrong passed every doping test he was administered. And then there was the delay. Armstrong had retired; he was out of the sport. Where were the authorities at the time all these offenses were alleged to have taken place?
His last victory was in 2005. He had a short-lived comeback in 2009, when he still managed to finish third in the Tour de France — and made two visits to Davis as part of the Amgen Tour of California. Armstrong finally quit for good in 2011.
Armstrong challenged the arbitration proceeding in federal court. A judge approved the arbitration, nonetheless noting that “USADA’s conduct raises serious questions” about its real interest in pursuing Armstrong.
Still, the USADA outlined a formidable case against Armstrong, including eyewitnesses. Adding to the shabbiness of this whole mess is that USADA reopened the case against Armstrong based on information provided by a former teammate, Floyd Landis, who was himself stripped of a Tour de France title for doping.
ARMSTRONG WAS, and, in many ways still is, an inspiring story. He came back from a near-fatal bout with testicular cancer to win those seven titles and launch a cancer awareness foundation that has raised nearly $500 million.
This is an unhappy story all the way around, but, contrary to F. Scott Fitzgerald, American lives do have second acts. Perhaps Armstrong’s will be a happier and demonstrably drug-free one. Whether that second act also includes induction to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis — once considered a sure thing — remains to be seen.