(CBS/AP) The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday night it will strip Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he declared he was finished fighting the drug charges that threaten his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.
Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive, said Armstrong would also be hit with a lifetime ban on Friday.
Armstrong dropped any further challenges Thursday night 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.
On Friday, World Anti-Doping Agency head John Fahey told Reuters Armstrong should be stripped of his seven Tour titles, because his decision not to fight doping charges meant there was “substance” to the allegations.
Still to be heard from was the sport’s governing body, the International Cycling Union, which had backed Armstrong’s legal challenge to USADA’s authority.
Armstrong, who retired last year, declined to enter arbitration — his last option — because he said he was weary of fighting accusations that have dogged him for years. He has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests that he has passed as proof of his innocence.
“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 in a statement sent to The Associated Press. He called the USADA investigation an “unconstitutional witch hunt.”
“I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999,” he said. “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.”
USADA reacted quickly and treated Armstrong’s decision as an admission of guilt, hanging the label of drug cheat on an athlete who was a hero to thousands for overcoming life-threatening testicular cancer and for his foundation’s support for cancer research.