The news broke late last night that one of the most celebrated athletes of our time would be stripped of his championships. Lance Armstrong has said he would no longer defend himself from the United States Anti-doping Agency’s (USADA) claims that he used performance enhancing drugs to win his seven Tour de France titles. As a result, the USADA is vacating all of his wins.
Lance Armstrong has said that he will not be doing interviews on the subject, but he has released a full written statement explaining his position. In short, he says that the USADA has no authority to strip his titles and that the championships are still his. He writes,
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…
USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles. I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours. We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront. There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that.
Armstrong goes on to explain why he’s giving up the fight. He says that the controversy is taking too much of a toll on his family and is distracting from his charitable work fighting cancer. The New York Times suggests that there may be a different motivation in play. It suggests that Armstrong is wishing to avoid eyewitness testimony against him. The Times reports:
The antidoping agency appeared set to move forward with arbitration. It claimed to have more than 10 eyewitnesses who would testify that Armstrong used banned blood transfusions, the blood booster EPO, testosterone and other drugs to win the Tour. Some of Armstrong’s closest teammates, including George Hincapie — one of the most respected American riders — were also expected to testify against him…
[Armstrong] could have chosen to go to arbitration, which would have meant that witnesses could testify against him in a hearing possibly open to the public. Instead, he chose to bow out of the process.
Is it true that Armstrong has bowed out in order to avoid the spectacle of his former teammates and colleagues testifying against him? My hunch is that we’ll hear their testimony one way or the other, and Armstrong will be forced to respond. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.