The winner of seven Tour de France trophies between 1999 and 2005, and hero of American cycling – Lance Armstrong, last night announced that he would stop fighting the charges that he took illegal substances in order to enhance his performances. Armstrong, who made a remarkable recovery from testicular cancer, after being diagnosed in October 1996, and suffering from brutal chemotherapy sessions, denies using blood doping in order to win.
However, US anti-doping officials want to carry the case forward and strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and impose a lifelong ban on him from cycling. If this goes ahead, it will virtually destroy his career, and the legacy of one of the greatest cyclists of all time, creating a dark shadow on what Americans see as one of their greatest heroes of the sporting world.
Armstrong inspired millions of people in the US and worldwide, with his courage and determination, and set up his own Livestrong Foundation which has raised over $500 millions through the sale of his wristbands; probably what started the craze of charity wristbands in the first place. Americans were drew to the sport of cycling through the story of Armstrong and his dominance in the field, and despite his personal health problems, he proved to be an inspiration for people battling cancer themselves.
The US Anti Doping Agency states that Armstrong has used the blood-booster EPO and steroids as well as blood transfusions since 1996. Travis Tygart, a chief executive for the agency says, “It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and athletes. It’s a heartbreaking example of win at all costs overtaking the fair and safe option. There’s no success in cheating to win.” Mr Tygart added that the agency has the power to remove the titles from Armstrong and will do so.
However, Armstrong disagrees, saying that the International Cycling Union is the only body that can do that. Armstrong commented, “USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles,” Armstrong said in a statement. “I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours.”
Armstrong will not pursue his innocence further, however, claiming he is tired of the investigation and ‘enough is enough’. Issuing a personal statement to the Associated Press, Armstrong commented, “There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, “Enough is enough.” 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. 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. 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.” Armstrong has previously stated that he would never take performance enhancing drugs because he had too much to lose. “(The) faith of all the cancer survivors around the world.
Everything I do off the bike would go away, too. And don’t think for a second I don’t understand that. It’s not about money for me. Everything. It’s also about the faith that people have put in me over the years. So all of that would be erased.”
Armstrong was not known in the cycling world until he won the Tour de France in 1999. It was his personal comeback story that captured the nations heart and the world’s imagination. Doctors had given him a less than 50% chance of survival from cancer but he fought back to win seven races.
His private life was equally as interesting as he had well publicized romances with the singer Sheryl Crowe and actress Kate Hudson. Armstrong is now with his long term girlfriend Anna Hansen of which he has just had his fourth child, a son called Max. He has three children from his previous wife, a son Luke and twin girls Isabelle and Grace.