Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong received a lifetime ban from Olympic sports early Friday and was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles after deciding to abandon his long fight against charges he led a sophisticated doping conspiracy throughout his career.
Armstrong announced Thursday night that he would disregard a midnight deadline the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency had given him to challenge the results of USADA’s two-year investigation of his legendary cycling teams, a probe that determined Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions.
“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 claiming he was the victim of a 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.”
Surrendering to USADA saves Armstrong from watching his former teammates testify against him in arbitration, but it leaves the iconic cancer survivor vulnerable to a tidal wave of legal claims from sponsors, promotion insurers and even the U.S. government, who are positioned to demand the return of tens of millions in sponsorship dollars.
Armstrong will be disqualified from every competition he entered since Aug. 1, 1998, including the Tour de France races where he built his legend and the 2000 Summer Olympics, where he won a bronze medal.
“It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes,” said USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart. “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, but for clean athletes, it is a reassuring reminder that there is hope for future generations to compete on a level playing field without the use of performance-enhancing drugs.”
A lifetime period of ineligibility means Armstrong, 40, will be prohibited from participating, either as an athlete or team owner, at any event whose organizers are signatories to the World Anti-Doping Code — a list that includes elite cycling races as well as the triathlon events that Armstrong has entered since retiring from cycling in 2011.