Lance Armstrong has decided not to pursue arbitration in his ongoing dispute with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The USADA will treat Armstrong’s decision as an admission of guilt and will move to strip him of the seven consecutive Tour de France titles that he won from 1999 to 2005. Armstrong says his rejection of arbitration doesn’t admit anything but rather is a recognition that the arbitration is part of what his coach called an “unjust process.”
Armstrong points to hundreds of different drug tests that he passed as evidence of his innocence. The USADA, on the other hand, said it had evidence that Armstrong used banned substances and methods and that some of his former teammates from the U.S. Postal Service cycling team were ready to testify against him. With Armstrong calling a halt to the proceedings while continuing to deny the accusations, citing the toll the investigation has taken on him and his family, the evidence presumably will never be presented.
It’s a sad day for Armstrong’s many fans, for supporters of his foundation and wearers of his “livestrong” bracelet, and for anyone who was inspired by his victory over cancer. His decision to stop fighting what he contends are unsubstantiated charges also is contrary to Armstrong’s hard-earned image as an indefatigable competitor whose refusal to tire or slow down would crush the will of fellow contestants during the mountain stages of the Tour de France.
And, despite the somewhat triumphal tone of the USADA official quoted in the article linked above, this whole process has been another black eye for the sport of cycling — a sport that apparently has been riddled with cheating and a willingness to explore new frontiers in manipulating human blood and sinew, heart and lung, to gain a fractional competitive advantage.