Cyclist Lance Armstrong has announced that he's giving up his fight against doping allegations brought against him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and in response, the USADA is effectively stripping him of his seven Tour de France titles and his 2000 Olympic bronze medal and banning him from future competition.
The 40-year-old Armstrong, who became an emblem of courage after returning from testicular and brain cancer only to be hounded by accusations of doping — although no positive test has ever been made public — issued a statement in which he railed against what he called an "unconsitutional witch hunt" by the USADA and its chief executive, Travis Tygart.
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough,'" Armstrong wrote. "For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999.
"Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colors. I made myself available around the clock and around the world. In-competition.... What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?"
The primary evidence against Armstrong is the claim by many of his contemporaries that he participated in illegal doping and steroid use. "Lance's story … is a cop-out; he is afraid of the overwhelming evidence against him to be presented in a public courtroom," said Betsy Andreu, the wife of a former Armstrong teammate, in an email to the Los Angeles Times. "… It is a very hopeful day for athletes who want to compete with integrity."
Armstrong is gambling that his claims of a smear campaign by the USADA will find sympathetic ears with a public that is suspicious of witch hunts without due process. Armstrong will continue to claim innocence, but given the fact that he essentially plea-bargained the death penalty, his protests may fall on increasingly deaf ears.