Cycling Legend Loses Titles
By REED ALBERGOTTI And VANESSA O'CONNELL
Lance Armstrong was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles late Thursday after he refused to fight allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
Mr. Armstrong notified the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that he wouldn't fight the charges the agency brought against him in June, a move that, according to USADA, immediately strips him of all of his athletic titles going back to Aug. 1, 1998, roughly a year before his first Tour de France victory. USADA said Mr. Armstrong is also banned immediately from competing in Olympic and other elite-level sports for the rest of his life.
In 2010, The Wall Street Journal was the first to report that a former teammate had accused Mr. Armstrong of doping, which eventually led to the investigation by USADA.
USADA, a nonprofit organization charged with policing doping, doesn't have the authority to bring criminal charges, but it can sanction athletes by stripping them of their titles and banning them from competition for doping.
Mr. Armstrong had until midnight Thursday to officially decide whether to fight the agency's charges, which alleged Mr. Armstrong had participated in a conspiracy to cheat.
In a statement, Mr. Armstrong didn't admit that he cheated, but said he won't fight USADA, an organization Mr. Armstrong has said for months has treated him unfairly.
"Say what you will about what I did or didn't do ten years ago, they're not playing by the rules," Mr. Armstrong said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal earlier this summer. "Here's the deal, athletes cheating in sport, that's bad. But what these guys are doing is far worse. The levels they have gone to try to f— me and rig this thing are far worse than any athlete taking a transfusion or some EPO. This is far dirtier."
By opting not to fight—a move that took many by surprise—Mr. Armstrong gave up the chance to defend himself against the charges in an arbitration hearing.
The governing body for the sport of cycling, known as the UCI, could appeal the sanctions, though it has never appealed a sanction handed down by USADA. The UCI could also refuse to acknowledge USADA's sanctions, though that would be unprecedented.
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough,'" Mr. Armstrong said in a statement Thursday. "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."
Mr. Armstrong's lawyers Timothy J. Herman and Robert Luskin wrote in a letter Thursday to USADA that Mr. Armstrong's decision didn't reflect "any belief that USADA's charges have merit or any fear of what a fair proceeding would establish."
Throughout his career, Mr. Armstrong was dogged by allegations that he had used performance-enhancing drugs. In 2010, Mr. Armstrong's former teammate, Floyd Landis, sent a series of emails to cycling officials in which he made allegations of doping on Mr. Armstrong's former cycling team and accused Mr. Armstrong of doping during his career. The existence of the emails was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Armstrong has always firmly denied the charges, often lashing out at his accusers and asserting that he had passed more than 500 drug tests. USADA's case against him rests largely on the testimony of at least 10 former teammates who USADA has said stand ready to say Mr. Armstrong doped during his career.
Mr. Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996. He came back to win the sport's biggest race—the Tour de France—in 1999. He went on to win six more Tour de France titles in a row, beating the previous record of five. Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, "It's Not About the Bike," was a best seller.
Mr. Armstrong retired in 2005 and came back to the sport for the 2009 season. Initially, he agreed to enter into a special blood-testing program to prove that he was racing clean. He ultimately ended the program, citing high costs and logistical problems.
Mr. Landis's allegations led to a federal criminal investigation that was dropped in February. In June, USADA announced it was bringing doping charges against Mr. Armstrong and five other people affiliated with his former team.