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Armstrong banned for life, career vacated by U.S. Anti-Doping Agency

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:31 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2012

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency erased 14 years of Lance Armstrong’s career today — including his record seven Tour de France titles — and banned him for life from the sport that made him a hero to millions of cancer survivors after concluding he used banned substances.

USADA said it expected cycling’s governing body to take similar action, but the International Cycling Union was measured in its response, saying it first wanted a full explanation on why Armstrong should relinquish Tour titles he won from 1999 through 2005.

The Amaury Sport Organization that runs the world’s most prestigious cycling race said it would not comment until hearing from the UCI and USADA, which contends the cycling body is bound by the World Anti-Doping Code to strip Armstrong of one of the most incredible achievements in sports.

Armstrong, who retired a year ago, said Thursday that he would no longer challenge USADA and declined to exercise his last option by entering arbitration. He denied again that he ever took banned substances in his career, calling USADA’s investigation a “witch hunt” without a shred of physical evidence.

He is now officially a drug cheat in the eyes of his nation’s doping agency.

“Nobody wins when an athlete decides to cheat with dangerous performance-enhancing drugs, but clean athletes at every level expect those of us here on their behalf, to pursue the truth to ensure the win-at-all-cost culture does not permanently overtake fair, honest competition” said USADA chief executive Travis Tygart.  “Any time we have overwhelming proof of doping, our mandate is to initiate the case through the process and see it to conclusion as was done in this case.”

Tygart said the UCI was “bound to recognize our decision and impose it.”

“They have no choice but to strip the titles under the code,” he said.

The UCI and USADA have engaged in a turf war over who should prosecute allegations against Armstrong. The UCI event backed Armstrong’s failed legal challenge to USADA’s authority, and it cited the same World Anti-Doping Code in saying that it wanted to hear more from the American agency.

“As USADA has claimed jurisdiction in the case the UCI expects that it will issue a reasoned decision” explaining the action taken,  the Switzerland-based organization said in a statement. It said legal procedures obliged USADA to fulfill this demand in cases “where no hearing occurs.”

The International Olympic Committee said Friday it will await decisions by USADA and UCI before taking any steps against Armstrong, who won a bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Games.. Besides the disqualifications, Armstrong will forfeit any medals, winnings, points and prizes, USADA said, but it is the lost titles that will be part of his legacy.

Every one of Armstrong’s competitive races from Aug. 1, 1998, have been vacated by USADA, recognized by Congress as the official anti-doping agency for Olympic sports in the United States. Its staff joined a federal criminal investigation of Armstrong that ended earlier this year with no charges being filed.

USADA, which announced its investigation in June, said its evidence came from more than a dozen witnesses “who agreed to testify and provide evidence about their first-hand experience and/or knowledge of the doping activity of those involved in the USPS conspiracy,” a reference to Armstrong’s former U.S. Postal Service cycling team.

The unidentified witnesses said they knew or had been told by Armstrong himself that he had “used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone” from before 1998 through 2005, and that he had previously used EPO, testosterone and Human Growth Hormone through 1996, USADA said. Armstrong also allegedly handed out doping products and encouraged banned methods — and even used “blood manipulation including EPO or blood transfusions” during his 2009 comeback race on the Tour.

In all, USADA said up to 10 former Armstrong teammates were set to testify against him. Included in the case were e-mails sent by Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping, describing an elaborate doping program on Armstrong’s Postal Service teams, and Tyler Hamilton’s interview with “60 Minutes” claiming had personal knowledge of Armstrong doping.

Had Armstrong chosen to pursue arbitration, USADA said, all the evidence would have been available for him to challenge.

“He chose not to do this knowing these sanctions would immediately be put into place,” the statement said.

Armstrong’s longtime coach, Johan Bruyneel, came to his defense and said he was the victim of an “unjust” legal case.

“I’m disappointed for Lance and for cycling in general that things have reached a stage where Lance feels that he has had enough and is no longer willing to participate in USADA’s campaign against him,” Bruyneel wrote on his personal website. “Lance has never withdrawn from a fair fight in his life so his decision today underlines what an unjust process this has been.”

The Belgian, who manages the Radioshack Nissan-Trek team, has his own legal battle with USADA. He has opted for arbitration to fight charges that he led doping programs for Armstrong’s teams.

Armstrong clearly knew his legacy would be blemished by his decision. But he said he has grown tired of defending himself in a seemingly never-ending fight against charges that he doped while piling up more Tour victories than anyone ever. He has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests that he passed as proof of his innocence during his extraordinary run of Tour titles.

“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 Thursday night, hours before the deadline to enter arbitration.

“Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances,” he said. “I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities.”

Although he had already been crowned a world champion and won individual stages at the Tour de France, Armstrong was still relatively unknown in the U.S. until he won the epic race for the first time in 1999. It was the ultimate comeback tale: When diagnosed with cancer, doctors had given him less than a 50 percent chance of survival before surgery and brutal cycles of chemotherapy saved his life.

Armstrong’s riveting victories, his work for cancer awareness and his gossip-page romances with rocker Sheryl Crow, fashion designer Tory Burch and actress Kate Hudson made him a figure who transcended sports.

His dominance of the Tour de France elevated the sport’s popularity in the U.S. to unprecedented levels. His story and success helped sell millions of the “Livestrong” plastic yellow wrist bracelets, and enabled him to enlist lawmakers and global policymakers to promote cancer awareness and research. His Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised nearly $500 million since its founding in 1997.

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Senior_Researcher wrote:
Well, unless they're takin' back Roger Clemens' Cy Young awards and World Series ring(s) and the awards earned by Barry Bonds, etc., USADA should hang it up already. People take sports way too seriously and, as long as there is an obscene amount of money at stake, there's nothing USADA or anyone else can do about doping. Quit the charade already! Dopes will be dopes and and everyone knows it.
on August 23,2012 | 05:09PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
"there's nothing USADA or anyone else can do about doping." Uhhh... how's about the USADA: (1) investigate doping, and (2) strip titles when doping is found? By gosh, how's about that! It just so happens that's what the USADA actually did in this case.....
on August 24,2012 | 02:35PM
Descartes22 wrote:
What a shocker. Anyone who thought that the only guy who was NOT doping in the biking world also happened to be the guy who won 7 straight Tour de Frances sure must have believed he was superhuman to beat all the dopes.
on August 23,2012 | 05:20PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Sad. Especially for so many young folk who looked up to this guy. What can be concluded except he did in fact dope up or lacked the fortitude to fight through the accusations. Either option is less than ideal. His own team mates said he was doping, that's pretty bad. On the bright side, he must have had some really, really good masking agents to have hidden so well.
on August 23,2012 | 05:34PM
Kuokoa wrote:
“There is zero physical evidence to support (the) outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of (doping) controls I have passed with flying colors". Yes Mr. Tygart, where is the physical evidence? I believe these are trumped up by those who DID get caught and DID test positive.
on August 23,2012 | 05:43PM
Tanabe wrote:
The USADA is obviously out to get him. He wouldn't get a fair fight in their forum so why bother fighting? There's been no real proof that he doped and he's been tested more than anyone in history. I believe if he did cheat in his seven victories, they would have found something. They didn't. His refusal to fight anymore is not proof of his guilt. Just that he's been dealing with the crap for over 10 years and is tired of it. Read his statement. You try fighting a stupid battle for that long, against a foe who is clearly after you, and with no end in sight, and see if you still feel like fighting after that.
on August 23,2012 | 07:40PM
RKC808 wrote:
The FRENCH never could accept an AMERICAN winner in THEIR Tour. Lance Armstrong has been getting "harrassed" by the French authorities since he became a legitmate contender and eventual winner of the Tour. He is simply just tired of the BS( surprise and unanounced tests) that affected his life. All of his "tests" were negative. In my eyes , he is still the 7 time winner of the Tour de France. And I will continue to support his cancer foundation
on August 23,2012 | 08:01PM
jtamura69 wrote:
Too bad this world is so screwed up that you can accuse anyone of something without the complete facts and heresay. Armstrong should change his mind and fight this till his dying breath. The only one that can you is GOD!!!
on August 23,2012 | 09:18PM
Eradication wrote:
Unless the USADA can prove that Armstrong did in fact cheat without resorting to believing testimony from felons, then I will continue to believe that Lance Armstrong is the greatest cyclist of all time. At some point in time a person has to realize that there is a witch hunt ongoing and stop playing their stupid game any longer. I support Lance Armstrong.
on August 23,2012 | 10:39PM
onevoice82 wrote:
I'm sad that Lance has given up and that's as far as I am going to speculate.....
on August 24,2012 | 05:39AM
gunfunit wrote:
more like tour de fraud.
on August 24,2012 | 06:12AM
Anonymous wrote:
Innocent until proven guilty. Yeah right. Usain Bolt better start laying off those world records. All the governing bodies need are teammates or acquaintances to make accusations and he'll be put through the ringer and forced to eventually give in. Physical evidence? Who needs it.
on August 24,2012 | 08:26AM
serious wrote:
What the heck is the Anti-Doping agency??? Another czar set up by HIM???? When they start checking for dope on politicians and entertainers, I'll listen!!! How many tests does a person have to go through----forever, until they find a fault?
on August 24,2012 | 08:58AM
MariaBetty wrote:
Armstrong has grown tired of this witch hunt. Readers assume that means guilt. But it is without proof. He just wants to stop fighting in court. The USADA claims: "To be the guardian of the values and life lessons learned through true sport" but they themselves have been poor sports.
on August 24,2012 | 09:31AM
onemorebeer wrote:
....then every single pro body builder should be banned. they all claim to be "natural"....BS, roids, roids, roids
on August 24,2012 | 09:59AM
onemorebeer wrote:
show me one pro body builder that is natural and his trophy case at home is sure to be empty....just sayin
on August 24,2012 | 10:00AM
kainalu wrote:
Witch hunt - plain and simple. The USADA storm-troopers have to find athletes to admonish and punish to justify their very existence. Lance Armstrong has taken hundreds, if not a thousand drug tests over his career and life - why didn't he test positive in any of those? Less fans of the opposition, the general sports fan could care less what the USADA thinks.
on August 24,2012 | 10:24AM
AhiPoke wrote:
I don't know if Armstrong is guilty or not. Shame on him if he is. What I do know is fighting the government (in this case a government sponsored agency) is s losing proposition. The government has unlimited time and money which makes it an unfair fight. In the business that I'm in I regularly see businesses pay the federal government huge amounts of money in settlements of cases that, at least on the surface, appear winnable. They pay the settlements because it costs less than fighting, even if they won. If they lose they'd be bankrupt. On top of this the government has determined that "mistakes" can be determined to be "criminal" without having to prove intent. I'm not an anarchist, but I believe our governments have become too large and powerful. Each individual department have been allowed to develop rules and regulations that have the power of law without having to go through any legislative process.
on August 24,2012 | 10:32AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Shame on Armstrong. His statement that he won't challenge it any further after he discovered what he was up against was pretty lame. And to have his foundation claim that he chose to do so because of family and the foundation is lame, too. If he really was thinking in terms of his family and foundation, he would have chosen to fight the allegations. That is if he knows that he is telling the truth. I have read into the evidence against him they are pretty credible. That is what is sad about this country today. Cheating is rampant. Students are getting caught for cheating on the SAT. Just go to some online games and you will see them cheating even at games. So sad.
on August 24,2012 | 10:45AM
entrkn wrote:
Armstrong was one of the most scrutinized athletes in history and now the USADA comes in after the fact and with no evidence, is making a judgement that seems to be based more on sentiment and egos than anything... Armstrong can now sue them and win this one too... BIG!
on August 24,2012 | 10:54AM
lowtone123 wrote:
Sad that this witchhunt had to cloud the career of the greatet cyclist ever. He passed every test known to man and they are still after him like this.
on August 24,2012 | 12:47PM
nigelUV001 wrote:
Why go after a guy who does so much for bicycling and cancer???? Somebody needs to be removed from their position.
on August 25,2012 | 09:10AM
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