U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart says the agency will ban Lance Armstrong from cycling for life and strip him of his seven Tour de France titles for doping. That’s going to be the headline you read everywhere, even here.
The real news is that Armstrong has decided to not go to arbitration against the USADA’s allegations that he was doping throughout his historic bicycling run. In essence, Armstrong is choosing to no longer fight what he’s calling a witch hunt or accept the sanctions the USADA wants to level against him.
Here’s the weird thing about this story that broke late last night. The USADA is, a tax-payer funded, non-government agency, empowered by Congress in October of 2000 to protect the integrity of Olympic, Paralympic, Pan-American and ParaPan American sports. That’s it. That’s all they can do, which really amounts to stripping Armstrong of his bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics.
It’s unclear how they have any authority in this matter to actually strip Armstrong of his Tour de France titles or why, at this point, — given that Armstrong last won a title seven years ago — why they even care if he was doping from 1999-2005.
However, they’ve never lost a court challenge and they’ve won 58 our 60 arbitration cases, which means Armstrong was as good as toast if he didn’t stop fighting.
Regardless of all that, the USADA can prevent Armstrong from competing in any athletic event that they act as signatory, including the triathlons that were lining up to pay Armstrong a $1 million appearance fee that would go to support the Livestrong Foundation. That’s the real story. It seems unclear how they have any authority to strip his of his titles, but they can harm his reputation and his cancer foundation’s bottom line.
My gut tells me that Armstrong probably was doping, but at this point trying to prove he was doping just feels like a pointless exercise in tearing down a hero. The story of Lance Armstrong is bigger than the man himself and it seems foolish to try and ruin that at this point.