Cycling demi-god Lance Armstrong has fallen from the pinnacle of the bicycle universe to the depths of disgrace. Facing a midnight deadline to formally fight doping charges, he announced last night that he would instead give up — which will prompt the stripping of his Tour de France titles and his banishment from competitive cycling, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Here’s what you need to know:
1.He Was the Greatest Cyclist of All Time
Armstrong won seven consecutive titles in the Tour de France — the pinnacle of cycling competition — a feat equaled by no other. During his insane reign from 1999 to 2005, he racked up the following honors, among others: 1999 ABC Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year; 2002 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year; 2002-2005 AP Male Athlete of the Year; 2003-2006 Espy Best Male Athlete.
2. His Legacy Has Been Destroyed
Yesterday, Armstrong announced he would give up the fight against doping charges leveled by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, or USADA. The USADA, in turn, said it would strip him of all seven Tour de France titles and ban him from cycling competition. His bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics may also be in question. He has long been a target of doping allegations but was formally charged in June.
3. He Joins the Ranks of Infamous Cheaters
USA Today’s Christine Brennan pulls no punches today when she opines
that there’s a shorthand description of all this mess:
…the seven-time Tour de France winner and famous cancer survivor now has officially earned himself another title: Cheater. Lance Armstrong is Ben Johnson. Lance Armstrong is Marion Jones.
4. There’s a Sh*t-ton of (Inconclusive) Evidence against Him
Bicycling Magazine lays out “10 of the most salient allegations” HERE
and challenges you to decide for yourself. Take a look.
Fellow riders not only allege Lance was a doper, but say he was indeed the ringleader — the pusherman of doping, if you will. Transfusions, growth hormone, testosterone … the list of allegations is long and comes from numerous sources who claim to be in the know — namely former teammates.
5. Lance Admits No Wrongdoing
— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) August 24, 2012
Even while giving up his fight against doping allegations, Armstrong is defiant and unrepentant, holding firm to his position that it’s been a “witchhunt” against him and that he is an innocent man who’s been persecuted unfairly. In his official statement yesterday, which you can read HERE, he says:
If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and – once and for all – put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair.
6. He Had Better Luck Against Cancer than Against the USADA
Diagnosed in 1996 with testicular cancer that spread to his brain and lungs, Armstrong famously and heroically battled and beat the insidious disease. He underwent aggressive surgical and chemo treatment and then went on to win the Tour de France seven times in perhaps the most amazing comeback story in sporting history. His Lance Armstrong Foundation raises millions to fight cancer and is known for its iconic yellow rubber bracelets.
7. Though Armstrong Gives Up, Others May Fight on His Behalf
The New York Times reports that there is likely a legal fight still looming, with or without Lance’s participation:
Both the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency have the right to appeal Usada’s ruling. And the cycling union will likely do just that, considering it fought Usada for jurisdiction over the case. If it appeals, the case will go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is sport’s highest court, based in Switzerland. The case will then be presented to arbitrators there, but that hearing is likely not going to take place this year, considering that C.A.S. is usually backed up with cases. The court could overturn Usada’s ruling. Or, possibly, it could give the cycling union jurisdiction over the case.
8. He Refused to Impregnate Sheryl Crow
How does this belong on this list? We had to lighten the mood. And Sheryl had that song in that John Travolta movie where the guy had special powers from getting cancer. So there’s that. Anyway, Armstrong allegedly split with the singer because she wanted kids and he didn’t. But then he knocked up someone else three years later. D’oh!
9. He’s Focusing on His Family
Armstrong has five children and said this in his statement yesterday:
Going forward, I am going to devote myself to raising my five beautiful (and energetic) kids, fighting cancer, and attempting to be the fittest 40-year old on the planet.
10. … And His Foundation
Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances. I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities. This October, my Foundation will celebrate 15 years of service to cancer survivors and the milestone of raising nearly $500 million. We have a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction. I have a responsibility to all those who have stepped forward to devote their time and energy to the cancer cause.