Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor considered one of the all-time greats in his sport, made the announcement in a written statement as he faced a midnight deadline on Thursday to formally challenge the accusations against him, reports Reuters.
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, “Enough is enough.” 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,” Lance Armstrong said in the statement published on his website LanceArmstrong.com.
In its letter of charges dated June 12, USADA accused Armstrong of being part of a sophisticated doping conspiracy involving five other members from his U.S. Postal Service cycling team, including doctors, a trainer and coach.
On Monday, a federal judge dismissed Armstrong’s lawsuit against USADA and said the agency can rightfully claim jurisdiction over the cyclist’s case, according to USA Today.
“Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart’s unconstitutional witch hunt. The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense,” Armstrong said in the statement.
Asked what actions USADA intended to impose, spokeswoman Annie Skinner said: “A loss of all results from August 1, 1998 and a lifetime ban from participating any sport sanctioned by a signatory to the WADA Code.”
“It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. “This is a heartbreaking example of how the win-at-all-costs culture of sport, if left unchecked, will overtake fair, safe and honest competition.”
In walking away, the 40-year-old Armstrong cited a familiar defense: he has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
“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,” Armstrong said.
“I made myself available around the clock and around the world. In-competition. Out of competition. Blood. Urine. Whatever they asked for I provided. What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?”
Armstrong declined, saying, “I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair” and said USADA has “zero physical evidence” to support its “outlandish and heinous claims.”
Armstrong has been one of the most successful and controversial cyclists of all time, returning to the sport after beating cancer to win the Tour de France an unprecedented seven times in succession from 1999 to 2005.
His legion of fans idolized him for showing that cancer could not stop him.
Accordng to The Telegraph, his former team-mates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton have both accused Armstrong of doping. Both Landis and Hamilton have also been punished for doping.
Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour title for doping, in 2010 accused Armstrong of doping and being involved in a doping scheme while the two were teammates. Last year, Tyler Hamilton — another Armstrong top lieutenant — told CBS that Armstrong and others on Armstrong’s teams were involved in a complex doping scheme that involved code words and secret cellphones.
In 1999, Armstrong tested positive for a banned corticosteroid on his way to winning his first Tour.
The New York Times writes that in 2004, the book “L.A. Confidential,” published only in French, linked Armstrong to doping, including claims by his team’s former massage therapist that he had asked her for makeup to hide needle tracks on his arm because they were evidence of his doping. In 2005, a former personal assistant claimed he found a steroid in Armstrong’s medicine cabinet.
Moreover, Armstrong’s former teammate, Frankie Andreu, and Andreu’s wife, Betsy, said they had overheard Armstrong admitting to doctors when he was undergoing cancer treatment that he had used steroids, human growth hormone and EPO while cycling.
Armstrong’s decision, according to the World Anti-Doping Code, means he will be stripped of his seven Tour titles, the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Olympics and all other titles, awards and money he won from August 1998 forward.
“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,” Armstrong said in the statement.
“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. Especially not Travis Tygart.”