Lance Armstrong is an icon of cycling and a role model not least for his courageous and successful fight against cancer, while remaining the most successful cyclist of his generation. He rejects the accusations that he was a systematic drugs cheat
Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France every year between 1999 and 2005. His astonishing successes have now been stripped away from him. He announced [Aug 23rd 2012] he will no longer fight drug charges from the US anti-doping agency, a day ahead of an appeal deadline.
In a statement, the 40-year-old maintains he is innocent, but says he is weary of the “nonsense” accusations. The US anti-doping agency (USADA) now says it will ban Armstrong from cycling for life and strip him of his seven Tour de France titles.
Armstrong retired from professional sport in 2011. USADA alleges he used banned substances as far back as 1996, including the blood-booster EPO, steroid and blood transfusions. Armstrong sued in federal court to block the charges but lost.
“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 the statement. “I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart’s [USADA’s chief executive] 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”.
The agency has said that 10 of Armstrong’s former teammates are prepared to testify against him. The cyclist has accused USADA of offering “corrupt inducements” to other riders.
Winning is everything
In his books, Armstrong presented himself as a warrior in a world where winning is everything. He also dealt with drug accusations against himself as being motivated through dirty tricks from rival teams and personal jealousy. Some of his devoted fans will remain loyal, accepting his claims that numerous drugs tests always failed to prove he had used illegal means to achieve his successes.
The individual and the culture
Since the Armstrong era, evidence has grown of widespread drug abuse by professional cyclists. The sport has an image problem to deal with. The period has also seen a near paranoid reaction of sports officials and athletes generally to demonise ‘drug cheats’. This helps preserve the belief in the highest ideals of sportsmanship which is only tarnished by a few wrong-doers. Cycling was among the most damaged sports as drug testing became more widespread and effective (although it is constantly battling against chemical innovations).
Armstrong has a point about the previous failure of testing to demonstrate his wrong-doings. On the other hand [as economists and other academics like to say] ‘absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence’. It is a weaselly kind of argument, although the fact that ten former teammates are prepared to testify against him seems a stronger one.