Little sympathy for 'cheat' Armstrong as he gives up fight
Cyclist will lose his seven Tour de France titles, but still maintains he’s innocent of doping allegations
LANCE ARMSTRONG is to be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after electing not to challenge formal allegations made against him by the US Anti Doping Agency, declaring that he was no longer prepared to take on the authorities who had embarked on an "unconstitutional witch hunt" against him.
Most observers ruefully note that despite his public protestations of innocence, Armstrong's refusal to fight the charges amounts to an admission of guilt.
"Lance Armstrong has – whatever equivocation and claims of persecution he persists in – all but conceded that he won his seven Tour de France titles by doping,” says The Guardian. “And by walking away from a defence he has ceded those yellow jerseys and lost his status as the most remarkable serial winner in the history of the sport."
The Times says he was "conceding defeat" in the battle to clear his name. "The American cancer survivor had been widely regarded as the greatest cyclist of all time but his legacy has been destroyed by persistent allegations of performance-enhancing drug use dating back to 1996."
The Independent says Armstrong is the highest-profile athlete to be stripped of his titles since sprinter Ben Johnson was caught doping at the 1988 Olympics.
"The perception of an American hero who rallied from cancer to become champion of perhaps sport's most demanding endurance test has been recast," laments the LA Times. USA Today simply calls him a "cheater".
Predictably Twitter has been aflame since the news broke, with opinion split between those who believe Armstrong is innocent, including sportsmen like Wales rugby player Jamie Roberts, and those who say he has finally been caught out.
Armstrong was dogged by allegations of doping throughout his career, but never tested positive for a banned substance, although traces of cortisone were found in his urine in 1999. But there were always questions about how one man could totally dominate a sport that was so heavily infested with drugs cheats at the time.
Coaches and team-mates were banned for doping offences but Armstrong always insisted that he was clean.
Perhaps tellingly, the word "clean" does not appear in the strongly worded statement posted on Armstrong’s website last night. In it he explained why he was not contesting the allegations, based on the testimony of those who raced with him during his career.
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough'. For me, that time is now," he wrote, declaring that he was "finished with this nonsense".
He rounded on USADA, the organisation that has led the inquiry and accused it of making "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?"
Travis Tygart, head of the agency, responded: "It's yet another heartbreaking example of how the win-at-all-costs culture, if left unchecked, will overtake fair, safe and honest competition."