SPORTS

Lance Armstrong stripped of Tour de France titles, banned for life

Comment
Decrease Increase Text size

"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 "Lance has never withdrawn from a fair fight in his life so his decision today underlines what an unjust process this has been."

Amstrong had his seven consecutive Tour de France titles taken away. Photo: © 2005 by Benutzer Haze, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

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. Jeffery Gervey, chairman of the foundation, issued a statement of support.

"Faced with a biased process whose outcome seems predetermined, Lance chose to put his family and his foundation first," Gervey said. "The leadership of the Lance Armstrong Foundation remain incredibly proud of our founder's achievements, both on and off the bike."

Questions surfaced even as Armstrong was on his way to his first Tour victory.

He was leading the 1999 race when a trace amount of a banned anti-inflammatory corticosteroid was found in his urine; cycling officials said he was authorized to use a small amount of a cream to treat saddle sores.

After Armstrong's second victory in 2000, French judicial officials investigated his Postal Service team for drug use. That investigation ended with no charges, but the allegations kept coming.

Others close to Armstrong were caught up in the investigations, too: Bruyneel, the coach of Armstrong's teams, and three members of the medical staff and a consultant were also charged.

Bruyneel is taking his case to arbitration, while two medical team staffers and consulting doctor Michele Ferrari didn't formally contest the charges and were issued lifetime bans by USADA.

Ferrari later said he was innocent. Armstrong was criticized for his relationship with Ferrari, who was banned by Italian authorities over doping charges in 2002.

Former personal and team assistants accused Armstrong of having steroids in an apartment in Spain and disposing of syringes that were used for injections.

In 2004, a Dallas-based promotions company initially refused to pay him a $5 million bonus for winning his sixth Tour de France because it wanted to investigate allegations raised by media in Europe.

Testimony in that case included former teammate Frankie Andreu and his wife, Betsy, saying Armstrong told doctors during his 1996 cancer treatments that he had taken a cornucopia of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.

Armstrong retired in 2005 and almost immediately considered a comeback before deciding to stay on the sidelines - in part because he didn't want to keep answering doping questions.

Three years later, Armstrong was 36 and itching to ride again. He came back to finish third in the 2009 Tour de France. Armstrong raced again in 2010 under the cloud of the federal investigation.

Early last year, he quit for good, making a brief return as a triathlete until the USADA investigation shut him down.

"He had a right to contest the charges," WADA President John Fahey said. "He chose not to. The simple fact is that his refusal to examine the evidence means the charges had substance in them."

  1. «
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. »

Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.

Recommended For You
comments powered by Disqus