Doping agency says Armstrong will lose titles

JIM VERTUNO
Last updated 15:05 24/08/2012
Lance Armstrong
Reuters
LANCE ARMSTRONG: "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say 'enough is enough'. For me, that time is now,'' adding that the investigation is an ''unconstitutional witch hunt.''

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US Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart says the agency will ban Lance Armstrong from cycling for life and strip him of his seven Tour de France titles for doping.

Armstrong on Friday Morning (NZT) dropped any further challenges to USADA's allegations that he took performance-enhancing drugs to win cycling's premier event from 1999-2005.

Armstrong says USADA doesn't have the authority to vacate his Tour titles. However, Tygart told The Associated Press that USADA can do it.

Tygart called the Armstrong case a "heartbreaking" example of a win-at-all costs approach to sports.

Armstrong says he is innocent, but announced Friday morning (NZT) that he has decided against fighting USADA because he is weary of the doping accusations that have dogged him for years. His decision could lead to a lifetime ban from cycling and perhaps the loss of the Tour titles he won from 1999-2005.

"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now,'' adding that the investigation is an ''unconstitutional witch hunt.''

In the statement, Armstrong did not concede having used performance enhancing substances during his celebrated cycling career. On the contrary, he said he would "jump at the chance" to put the allegations to rest.

But Armstrong said he refused to participate in the USADA process, which he called "one-sided and unfair."

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Armstrong also alerted the USADA in a letter sent just before a midnight Thursday deadline that he would not fight the charges through arbitration.

"Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances," he said in the statement.

The USADA, a quasi-governmental agency created by the US Congress in 2000, formally charged Armstrong in June with doping and taking part in a conspiracy with members of his championship teams. Five other cyclists have been accused of conspiring with Armstrong over the course of 14 years to hide doping activity.

The agency said in a letter to Armstrong that it has blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that are "fully consistent" with doping.

In the letter, which was published in the Washington Post, the agency said it also has at least 10 former team-mates and colleagues of Armstrong who will testify he used doping drugs during races from 1999 to 2005.

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Lawyers for Armstrong contend the USADA gathered evidence by threatening to ruin the careers of fellow cyclists who have agreed to testify against him. Armstrong's lawyers also argue that the agency's rules violate his right to a fair trial and that it lacks proper jurisdiction to charge him.

In February, the Justice Department dropped an investigation cantered on whether Armstrong and his team-mates cheated the sponsor of their bike racing team, the U.S. Postal Service, with a secret doping program.

Armstrong's attorneys contend that he has "passed every drug test ever administered to him in his career - a total of 500 to 600 tests... more drug tests than any athlete in history."

They say the International Cycling Union has proper jurisdiction in the case.

USADA says Armstrong used banned substances dating to 1996, including the blood-booster EPO and steroids, as well as blood transfusions. Armstrong sued in federal court to block the charges but lost.

Anti-doping officials have accused Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids and blood boosters, and participating in a complex doping scheme on his teams while winning the Tour de France every year from 1999-2005. USADA officials say up to 10 former teammates are ready to testify against him and they have drug test results from 2009-2010 that are "consistent" with doping.

Armstrong says he has passed more than 500 drug tests in his career and accused USADA officials of waging a personal vendetta against him.

The 40-year-old Armstrong retired from cycling in 2011 and walked away without being charged following a two-year federal investigation into many of the same accusations he faces from USADA. That probe was closed in February. USADA officials told Armstrong in June they were pursuing separate, non-criminal doping charges.

Sanctions by USADA could damage his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists in history, an athlete who is a hero to many for overcoming life-threatening testicular cancer and for the Lance Armstrong Foundation's work supporting cancer survivors and funding research.

Doping rumours and allegations have dogged Armstrong throughout his career. In a sport rife with cheaters, he has been under constant suspicion from those who refused to believe he was a clean rider winning cycling's premier event against a field of doped-up competition.

The latest charges from USADA spawned a turf war between sports agencies. The Switzerland-based International Cycling Union said USADA did not have jurisdiction to pursue the case and urged the American agency to turn over evidence to them to determine if an investigation should proceed. The World Anti-Doping Agency supported USADA's claims of jurisdiction.

Armstrong sued in federal court to block USADA's case, arguing the arbitration process was unfair. His lawsuit was dismissed earlier this week by a federal judge, forcing Armstrong to decide whether to challenge the charges in arbitration - something he says violates his constitutional rights to due process. USADA officials say their process is fair and widely recognised by sports agencies across the globe.

- AP

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